Celestial Stargazing Comes To Paramount Ranch In Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Attendees at a previous Star Party enjoy the dark sky and Milky Way from the Paramount Ranch. Photo courtesy of Mike Shaw and NPS.

For over 70 years, there was plenty of "stargazing" of the Hollywood variety at a place called Paramount Ranch. Located near Los Angeles, the Ranch was used for filming more than 150 movies and TV shows featuring some of the biggest names in the industry. Now part of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the Ranch will host a chance for the public to enjoy a more timeless type of stargazing during a winter sky star party on Saturday, February 8.

Many of us might be surprised to learn that viewing the night sky is even feasible near one of the largest urban areas in the U. S., but Paramount Ranch's location, about 37 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, offers a good opportunity.

"Star parties are a great way to appreciate our beautiful night sky," said Robert Cromwell, park ranger for the National Park Service. "We may be near the second-largest metropolitan area in the nation, but our park still provides amazing views of stars and planets in the night sky."

Event Includes Stargazing, Constellation Tours and Children's Activities

The February 8 event will run from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and will feature stargazing, constellation tours and children's activities. Paramount Ranch is located at 2903 Cornell Road in Agoura Hills, California.

A park spokesperson says Cal Lutheran University Professor Mike Shaw, as well as astronomers from the National Park Service and Ventura County Astronomical Society, will be on hand to show attendees the brightest night star, a planet over 10 times the diameter of earth, and gigantic gas clouds over 1000 light years away.

Winter nights can be a bit chilly, even in Southern California, so visitors are encouraged to bring a flashlight and warm clothing. In the event of rain, the program will be canceled.

Enjoy the Night Sky from the Largest Urban National Park in the U.S.

Information from the park notes that Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area is the largest urban national park in the country, with more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. This unit of the National Park Service includes "a seamless network of local, state and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities."

Paramount Ranch is now part of that park, and its history as a "movie ranch" dates back to 1927. It was used by a number of famous names in the industry, including director Cecil B. DeMille and actors Bob Hope, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant and Claudette Colbert. During the 1950s, westerns such as the Cisco Kid and Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre were filmed here. From 1992 to 1997, Paramount Ranch was used as the setting for the television show, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. You'll find a complete list of films shot at the ranch at this link.

On the evening of February 8, all of the "lights and action" will be located far above the now silent western town—and you won't even need a ticket for this show. You'll find a map and driving directions to Paramount Ranch here. If you need additional details about the event, you can phone 805-370-2301.