Let me tell you, folks: Death Valley National Park is dark. "How dark is it?" It's so dark that -- according to our own guide to the best parks to go stargazing -- around midnight, stargazers can see "gegenschein," a weird phenomenon that brightens the sky "exactly opposite the sun caused by interplanetary dust reflecting sunlight." So, yeah, it's dark.
In fact, back in 2008 it was designated by the International Dark Sky Association as an International Dark Sky Park, the largest park in the world with such a designation. And what does that mean?
[A] park or other public land possessing exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resources.
But with the ever-constant creep of light pollution, maintaining the darkness is not an easy task. Since the designation, the park's employees have been focusing on how to make the park even darker. They "completed comprehensive outdoor lighting guidance documents, replaced inefficient lighting with energy efficient lower wattage and lumen lights, and installed intelligent lighting controls." They also focused their efforts towards sustainability, lessening the park's carbon footprint in the process.
In 2013, the efforts paid off as the park was designated by the IDSA as a "Gold Tier" Dark Sky Park. It's the best of the best, in other words. And this week, the management team of Death Valley National Park were given the Department of Interior Environmental Award for all their hard work. So next time you're in Death Valley gazing up at the impeccable night sky, don't take that darkness for granted.