Aficionados of starry night skies already know that remote spots in Southern California are excellent places to escape nighttime glare. On Wednesday, the International Dark Sky Association (IDSA) made that a little bit more official, by announcing it had designated Death Valley National Park a "Gold Tier" International Dark Sky Park.
With the designation, Death Valley becomes the largest of the IDSA's Dark Sky parks.
"Death Valley is a place to gaze in awe at the expanse of the Milky Way, follow a
lunar eclipse, track a meteor shower, or simply reflect on your place in the universe,"
said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "We greatly appreciate the
International Dark-Sky Association certification. It illustrates the parkʼs commitment
to protect natural darkness and supports the wider mission to protect nightscapes of
the entire National Park System."
Death Valley's location, at a remove from most developed areas in the West, has helped its skies stay dark -- as have the tall mountains that surround much of the Park. That's not necessarily true for long: the ever-brightening glow of Las Vegas does infiltrate the southern reaches of the valley. The designation may well help that, by providing more impetus to Nevada urbanites to install dark-sky-friendly lighting fixtures.
In the meantime, Death Valley remains one of the best places in Southern California for star parties; you can check the Las Vegas Astronomical Society's upcoming events page to stay informed of future events.