In the Midwest, we are fortunate to be located in between the extensive light pollution of the East and West coasts. Although cities like Chicago, Kansas City and Des Moines can be seen for miles and miles, Iowa is a fairly dark place and just isolated enough to offer some incredible night views. Unfortunately the crisp and cold skies of Winter offer the best viewing conditions, the night after a cold front once the winds have calmed down is ideal for clarity. This is also a great time to practice up on the art of night sky photography or for the more advanced, deep sky photography, although that's a write-up for another time.
The photo featured in this article was taken at the 1883 Octagonal barn near Downey, Iowa. Located just far enough from the light pollution of Iowa City, the barn offers a great night sky with the setting of a 130-year-old historic barn. It's locations like these that should stay dark so that future generations have the ability to enjoy the night sky and benefit from the incredible amount of learning opportunities that space has inspired and bestowed upon humanity.
The night sky is a gift to all of us and it can be enjoyed many different ways. One of the best ways for a beginning observer is to visit or join an astronomy club. The Cedar Amateur Astronomers host an event every month near Cedar Rapids at the Palisades-Dows Observatory. Perhaps the best way to enjoy the night sky is from home, stargazing with family, during a meteor shower or perhaps a lunar eclipse but for those that live in a modest city, the open rural countryside of Iowa offers some spectacular and beautiful night sky views! Find a group to share your hobby with here: Astronomy Clubs of Iowa. Or find the perfect star gazing spot here: Dark Sky Finder