Death Valley is Newest Dark Sky Park

Racetrack Playa | Photo: Shubhika Bharathwaj/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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.

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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 park?s 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.

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