"That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." – Neil Armstrong
It’s been 50 years since the United States put a man on the moon and this month of July will mark some extraordinary events for history and astronomy lovers alike! Five decades after the "Eagle" landed, mankind still looks to the sky in awe like they have for thousands of years. We love any excuse to get outside and bask in the awesomeness of nature, so let’s honor this momentous leap that was taken in 1969 and where the space frontier will take us next!
Keep reading to find out where to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
At the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, otherwise known as “Rocket City," the whole area is celebrating its integral role in developing and building the Saturn launch vehicles for the Apollo Moon mission. There will be a whole week of events, including music performances, moon landing reenactments, and even an attempt to break a Guinness World Record by launching 5,000 model rockets simultaneously.
D.C. is home to world-class museums, and the National Air and Space Museum is no exception. Their celebration of Apollo 50 will feature special, hands-on exhibits, an outdoor festival, and a chance to see Neil Armstrong’s suit on display for the first time in 13 years.
The celebrations here culminate with a late-night party called, “The Eagle Has Landed," at 10:56 p.m. on July 20 to mark Armstrong’s first step onto the moon. The D.C. celebration focuses a lot on President Kennedy’s leadership and promotion of the U.S. Space Program, which makes for a great history element to this event!
At the OMSI, a.k.a. the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, they’re hosting a block party for stargazers. At Rooster Rock State Park and Stub Stewart State Park, starting at 9 p.m. on July 20, you can see some sky highlights—Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, star clusters, and the gorgeous waning gibbous moon. This museum is always great, but it has a lot of extra special fun up its sleeve this week!
What better place to celebrate Apollo 50 than in Neil Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta? The Armstrong Air and Space Museum is hosting a week’s worth of events, filled with celebrations of their most famous resident that include rocket launches, interactive museum exhibits, music events, a fun run, a gala, and more.
If you can’t make it to any formal celebrations for Apollo 50, you’re still in luck for a star-filled July! There is a fair amount of notable celestial activity expected throughout the month that you can read about here. Below, you’ll find the ones we’re most excited about!
- July 13: Close Approach of the Moon & Jupiter
- July 16: Partial Lunar Eclipse (North and South America can expect to see this eclipse in the dusk and night hours of July 16, while Europe, Asia, Africa, India, and Australia can expect the early morning and before dawn hours of July 17.)
- July 21: Peak of the α–Cygnid Meteor Shower
- July 29: Peak of the δ–Aquarid Meteor Shower
- July 31: Peak of the Piscis Australid Meteor Shower
If you can’t get out to any moon events this year, be sure to check out NASA’s special TV programming on Friday, July 19, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m EDT for their showing of "NASA’s Giant Leaps: Past and Future" to celebrate. The show will be coming to you live from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with segments in Houston, Huntsville, D.C., Ohio, and Seattle. You’ll see Apollo memorabilia, anniversary celebrations, and hear from Apollo astronauts. Find the stream here on NASA’s Apollo anniversary events page.
Outside of the U.S.
If you’re not in the U.S. for this momentous, month-long space extravaganza, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered with a few other places around the world that are known for their incredible nighttime views.
La Palma, Canary Islands
The northernmost island of the Canary Islands’ seven main islands, La Palma is known for its incredible stargazing and has been named an UNESCO Starlight Reserve, in honor of the amazing celestial views you can catch there.
This small town in South Iceland is known for not only amazing star views, but also the Northern Lights! It’s one of the southernmost viewpoints for the Aurora Borealis, making it perfect if you’re not quite prepared for the arctic cold.
The birthplace of the telescope is another spot well known for its stargazing. See the same stars Galileo did when he first looked to the heavens, and enjoy a dazzling display out in the Tuscan countryside.
You can find more details about these places, as well as some more European stargazing locations here.
There are some great spots for viewing the stars in Australia—its low light pollution and unique southern hemisphere placement make it a premier spot for star enthusiasts.
At the Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, you’ll find the telescope that was watching when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon in 1969. This spot offers great views, interesting exhibits, and activities for the whole family to explore the stars.
In Western Australia, visit the Gravity Discovery Centre to find this observatory, which houses the world’s largest radio telescope ever built. The dark skies, guidance from expert astronomers, and accessible telescopes make this a top-notch spot.
Back in NSW, just outside the capital city of Sydney, this observatory can be found on a hill overlooking the harbor. The Sydney Observatory houses the oldest working telescope in Australia, which was originally built to view the Transit of Venus in 1874.
For more details about Australia stargazing, check out these resources here.
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