Summer Stargazing: 5 Best Observatory Trips - United Hub
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Summer stargazing: 5 best observatory trips

By Bob Cooper, July 26, 2016

Heading to the mountains and looking to the stars are two cherished summer pastimes. You can combine both by flying to any of these four mountain observatories, which are among the world's finest, or an historic fifth one in the hills of Wisconsin. Once you've arrived, you can combine stargazing and learning about the heavens in observatory tours with more customary summertime activities like hiking and beach-going.

the Volcanic "Big Island" of Hawaii with a night full of stars

Kona, Hawaii

As if you need another excuse to fly to Hawaii, add one more: the Mauna Kea Observatories on the volcanic “Big Island" of Hawaii. Astronomers adore Mauna Kea's thin, dry, clean air, continually purified by trade winds, which lets them peer easily into space from the world's largest array of telescopes atop the world's tallest mountain. Yes, the tallest (13,802 feet) — but only if you start from the base of the mountain, which is four miles below sea level. It's about a 1 ½ hour drive from the resorts of Kona (or Hilo) to the 9,200 foot elevation visitor center, where you can view the sun through a solar telescope or the stars through a night scope. You can also attend a special program on most Saturday nights.

The cloudless night view of the stars in the sky in Chile

Santiago, Chile

Several of the world's finest observatories are clustered on the cloudless, high-altitude plateau of the Atacama (the driest desert in the world), making northern Chile the favorite destination of “astrotourists" from around the globe. The top two for visitors are the Paranal Observatory, with its aptly named Very Large Telescope (VLT), and the ALMA Observatory, the world's largest and priciest ($1.4 billion) astronomical project, with a telescope more powerful than the Hubble. You can venture out to tour them after flying into Santiago where you can take in: the nightlife, the culture of nearby Valparaiso, the beauty of national parks in the Andes, and the beaches and wine regions of central Chile.

Stars fill the night sky with many cacti surrounding the image

Tucson, Arizona

While golfers brave triple-digit temperatures on Tucson summer days, visitors who brave the twisty 31 mile drive from Tucson to Mt. Lemmon arrive in sweater weather at the 9,157 foot summit. The University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter is both literally and figuratively cool, as you may spot a meteor or satellite through the Southwest's largest public telescope during the nightly, five-hour stargazing program ($65/adults, $40/youth, dinner included). Summer or fall is the best time to go. Kitt Peak National Observatory, atop a 6,877-foot mountain, is also a 90 minute drive from Tucson, featuring a visitor center and daily 3 ½ hour guided tours of its massive telescopes ($9.75/adults, $3.25/youth).

Night sky filled with hundreds of bright stars in the Canary Islands

Tenerife, Canary Islands

The Canary Islands, an autonomous territory of Spain off the Moroccan coast, is a favorite getaway spot for Europeans and is cherished for its beaches, volcanoes and mild climate. On the island of Tenerife, Teide is the shared name of: the national park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the tallest mountain (12,198 feet), and the sprawling observatory situated partway up the volcanic mountain. On it you'll find a visitor center and an array of telescopes, which will give you a good look at the galaxy during guided English-language stargazing telescope tours every Friday ($34/adult, $27/youth, by reservation). A second major observatory in the Canaries, Roque de los Muchachos on the island of Las Palmas, offers daytime guided visits (70-90 minutes) by arrangement.

View of Geneva Lake during the day

Williams Bay, Wisconsin

Only the most serious astronomy buff would make a special trip to Williams Bay (pop. 2,600, elev. 1,050 feet), but it makes for a pleasant small-town diversion on a trip to Chicago, Milwaukee or Madison, which are all within a 90-minute drive. Why? Because oddly enough, the village on Geneva Lake is where you'll find Yerkes Observatory, regarded as the birthplace of modern astrophysics. Research at the University of Chicago-operated facility has continued since it opened in 1897, but visitors can stop by any day except Sunday for a 45 minute daytime tour ($8-$10), or most evenings for a telescope stargazing program ($37.50 by reservation). While in town, you can hike through the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy or visit Williams Bay Beach.

If you go

Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your stargazing adventure.

United Awards Free Flights for a Year to Winners of "Your Shot to Fly" Sweepstakes

Grand prize winners live in Bradenton, FL; Cleveland, OH; Goodyear, AZ; Oakland, CA and San Francisco, CA
By United Newsroom, July 29, 2021

CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines today announced the five lucky grand prize winners of its "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes, who will each get to fly anywhere in the world United flies with a companion over the course of the next year. The winners of the "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes are:

  • Ashley Cronkhite from Bradenton, FL
  • Robert Simicak from Cleveland, OH
  • Sean Husmoe from Goodyear, AZ
  • Lauren Aldredge from Oakland CA
  • Lauren M. from San Francisco, CA

The sweepstakes was in support of the Biden administration's ongoing national effort to encourage more people to get their COVID-19 vaccination and encouraged United's MileagePlus® loyalty members to upload their vaccine records to United. In less than a month, more than one million MileagePlus members uploaded their vaccine cards to the United app and website for a shot to win one of the grand prizes. In June the airline awarded 30 first prize winners with a pair of roundtrip tickets anywhere United flies.

United First U.S. Airline to Offer Economy Customers Option to Pre-Order Snacks and Beverages

New pre-order option builds on the airline's contactless payment technology and is another example of the customer experience transformation underway at United
By United Newsroom, July 28, 2021

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Starting today on select flights, all United customers – no matter what cabin of service they're flying in – can use the airline's award-winning mobile app and website to pre-order meals, snacks and beverages up to five days before they're scheduled to travel. United is the first and only U.S. airline to offer economy customers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages, a reflection of the customer experience transformation underway at the airline.



United Airlines to Operate More than 40 Weekly Flights as England Re-Opens to U.S. Travelers

In August, United is adding a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. to London
By United Newsroom, July 28, 2021

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- With today's announcement of England reopening to fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. beginning Aug 2, United Airlines is making it easier for business and leisure customers to jet across the pond with the addition of flights to London. In August, United will have six daily flights between the U.S. and London, including a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. and increasing service from Houston to daily. United looks forward to resuming additional London service in the coming months as well as launching new nonstop service between Boston and London. Customers traveling to England must be fully vaccinated in the U.S. with vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and must take a test before departure as well as a PCR test within the first two days of arrival. Passengers vaccinated in the U.S. will also need to complete a passenger locator form prior to traveling to England and provide proof of U.S. residency.

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