The World’s Top 10 Stargazing Spots
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YANGTZE RIVER VALLEY, CHINA
The Landscape: While modern China’s big cities usually have poor viewing conditions, the country has a rich tradition of stargazing (one of the world’s earliest observatories was built in Beijing during the 15th-century Ming Dynasty). The dramatic Yangtze River valley, with its monumental Three Gorges Dam project, offers both stunning daytime scenery and comparatively clear night skies.
The Skyscape: The Chinese have kept meticulous records of solar eclipses for thousands of years (traditionally interpreting them as inauspicious omens), and on July 22, 2009, a five-minute total solar eclipse will cast its shadow over the Yangtze River valley.
How to Experience It: The stargazing-themed tour operator MWT Associates (www.melitatrips.com) offers a two-week China trip in July 2009 to coincide with the solar eclipse; the itinerary includes explorations of Beijing and Xian, and a cruise up the Yangtze River from Chongqing to Shanghai.