International Dark Sky Parks and other places
International Dark Sky Parks, also called Star Parks, offer the best conditions for a beautiful view of the stars. But their dark surroundings not only play an important role in astronomy; environmental protection and nature conservation also benefit from them. There are plenty of parks worldwide that are worth visiting.
What are International Dark Sky Parks?
International Dark Sky Parks are designated landscape areas where the darkness of the night is protected. This means that any kind of light pollution also called light smog, is reduced. Light pollution is caused by artificial light, such as street lamps.
The origin comes from biology and the realization that the ever-increasing artificial lighting affects the mating behavior of insects, causing disturbances in insect populations. And the constant light pollution also has a negative impact on animal and plant life and their natural day-night rhythm.
Star parks are also very important for astronomy. With their darkness, they offer optimal conditions for observing celestial objects. In particular, faint objects and the Milky Way can thus be better perceived. Appropriate lighting conditions are the basis for exploring our universe.
Darkness as a cultural heritage worth protecting has become increasingly important in the past. Finally, the astronomer David Crawford and physicist Tim Hunter founded the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in 1988. It is a non-profit organization based in the United States that aims to preserve and protect our nocturnal environment, as well as the starry night sky. Since 2001, as a part of the Dark Sky Place Program, the organization has formally recognized locations as Dark Sky Places with the aim of promoting the preservation and safeguarding of dark sites worldwide.
The six types of designations
In addition to the International Dark Sky Parks, the IDA designates five other categories. Thus, there are six types of Dark Sky Places, which are defined as follows:
International Dark Sky Parks are protected spaces, both publicly and privately owned, dedicated to natural conservation. These parks adhere to proper outdoor lighting practices and offer programs to educate visitors about preserving the dark sky.
International Dark Sky Reserves are comprised of a central area known as the dark "core," which is surrounded by a populated periphery. Within these reserves, specific policies are implemented to protect and maintain the darkness of the core zone.
International Dark Sky Sanctuaries represent some of the most remote and darkest locations in the world, characterized by their delicate conservation status.
Urban Night Sky Places are situated within expansive urban environments, where they actively foster an authentic nighttime experience amidst substantial artificial light while not meeting the criteria for any other category of International Dark Sky Places.
International Dark Sky Communities encompass cities, towns, or legally organized communities that have established outdoor lighting ordinances of high quality and undertake educational initiatives to raise awareness among residents about the significance of safeguarding dark skies.
Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction refers to subdivisions, master-planned communities, and unincorporated neighborhoods and townships that actively advocate for a more pristine night sky, although they do not meet the criteria for the International Dark Sky Community designation.
Certified International Dark Sky Places worldwide
Heading to one of the protected landscape areas for stargazing can let you revel in nature's breathtaking beauty and find yourself filled with awe. However, there are many Dark Sky Parks around the world. In the following, our most popular Dark Sky Parks and other places are listed.
The United States and Canada boast extensive stretches of untouched wilderness, characterized by sparsely populated areas. Within these remote and unspoiled landscapes, the perfect conditions for stargazing have given rise to numerous Dark Sky Parks in both countries.
Europe is home to vast natural areas with sparse populations, creating an ideal setting for stargazing enthusiasts. This has led to the establishment of numerous Dark Sky Parks across the continent, where visitors can witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the night sky in all its glory.
Australia and New Zealand are truly paradise for stargazers. With their vast landscapes and untouched natural beauty, these countries offer many remote areas that provide optimal conditions for observing the starry night sky. They are home to several designated Dark Sky Parks, Reserves, and Sanctuaries.
Read more interesting articles
Observing stars: Essential tricks and tips
With these helpful tips, your night under the stars will be extra special!
How to read star data
The information about stars can be quite confusing. Read helpful and simple explanations of the most important terms around stars.
Did you know that you can name a real star?
Name a real star in the night sky and create something that lasts for eternity.