It’s officially International Dark Sky Week, and officially New Moon week, which means there’s no better time to look up and look for bright constellations, planets, and meteors.
International Dark Sky Week was launched in 2003 by the International Dark Sky Association, an Arizona-based non-profit organization that works to “preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through illumination quality exterior “.
Best known for awarding hard-earned ‘Dark Sky’ designations to public lands and even urban areas around the world, see this interactive map of IDA to see where there is a dark sky site near you.
If you are near one of these major cities in the United States? Head to one of these nearby dark sky sanctuaries or international parks. The former have been designated as such because they have “Exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage and / or public enjoyment.” In other words, they are truly special places.
Don’t forget your binoculars and your super long lens for your camera.
Los Angeles, California – Joshua Tree National Park
Just over 100 miles from Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park has officially been a Dark Sky Park since 2017. In fact, according to the National Park Service, it offers some of the darkest skies in Southern California.
Head to the park and look up to see, hopefully, the Milky Way shining overhead. Plus, make the most of the otherworldly landscape around you, perhaps taking nighttime images of fantastic tree silhouettes juxtaposed against bright stars.
San Antonio, Texas – Devils River State Natural Area
Named the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in Texas in 2019, there may be no better place in the Lone State for solitude and clear night skies.
TO Devils riverThere are primitive sites to get on and off, so if you are looking for a quiet place to camp, this might be your place.
Washington, DC – Natural Bridge State Park
A few hours southwest of the capital, Natural Bridge State Park in Virginia is known for its limestone arch of the same name that runs through Cedar Creek, its scenic hiking trails that cut through the James River Valley, and its truly dark night skies. . This place is officially an international dark sky park starting this week.
If that 3 hour drive from Washington, DC feels a little too much? There are always Sky Meadows State Park. It’s only an hour’s drive from the city, and has also been designated as the International Dark Sky Park.
Orlando, Florida – Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
Recognized as Florida’s First International Dark Sky Park in 2016, camp here to experience some of the darkest skies in the Sunshine State.
How about reserving one of the astronomy camping pads? Sleep in one of these sites and there are some dark sky rules that you will have to follow: for example, all lights must be red spectrum and no campfires are allowed. We have no doubt that it will be worth it.
Phoenix, Arizona – Tonto National Monument
Outside of its cities, Arizona is known for its incredible dark skies.
Less than a two-hour drive from Phoenix, you may want to visit the Tonto National Monument.
An International Dark Sky Park designated since 2019, the The National Park Service says: “With over 10,000 years of human history documented in our park, people have enjoyed Tonto’s pristine nightscapes for thousands of years … In addition to the clean air and magnificent soundscape, the night skies in Tonto retain a setting and a feeling rarely found near a large metropolitan city. “
It all sounds amazing, but wherever you are, even if you are in the middle of a big city, there is a beauty that is worth experiencing when you look up. Enjoy it.
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