Dark-sky preserve

Dark-sky preserve status enables high-quality astronomical observation in Paranal Observatory.[1]

A dark-sky preserve (DSP) is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory, that restricts artificial light pollution. The purpose of a dark sky preserve is generally to promote astronomy. Because different national organizations have worked independently to create their programs, different terms have been used to describe the areas. This has led to confusion between the terms reserve, preserve, and park. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) chooses reserve to avoid confusion with park, when using the initialisms "IDSR" (International Dark Sky Reserve) and "IDSP" (International Dark Sky Park).

In 1993, Michigan became the first state in the United States to designate a tract of land as a "Dark Sky Preserve" at the Lake Hudson State Recreation Area.

In 1999, the first permanent preserve was established at Torrance Barrens in the Muskoka region of southern Ontario.[2] Nevertheless, protection zones around observatories existed well before the creation of that preserve.

The IDA recognizes protected areas worldwide. The Mont Mégantic Observatory in Quebec is the first such site to be recognized (in 2007) as International Dark Sky Reserve.[3] IDA has also recognized Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah as the world's first International Dark Sky Park.[4]

Canada has established an extensive standard for dark sky preserves that addresses lighting within the DSP and influences from skyglow from urban areas in the region. This was based on the work of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. There are no other established standards for dark sky preserves. Outside Canada, such designations are generally through self-proclamation. As a result, the validity of such a designation may be dubious. In some cases, dark sky preserves are neither dark nor protected.

It is generally understood that a Dark Sky Preserve, or Dark Sky Reserve, should be sufficiently dark to promote astronomy. However this is not always the case. The lighting protocol for a Dark Sky Preserve is based on the sensitivity of wildlife to artificial light at night (ALAN).[5]

In 2015, the new phrase 'Dark Sky Sanctuary' was introduced, and the Elqui Valley of northern Chile was designated as the first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world. The “ Gabriela Mistral Dark Sky Sanctuary” is named after a Chilean poet.[6]

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Dark Sky Places program offers five types of designations:

  • International Dark Sky Communities – Communities are legally organised cities and towns that adopt quality outdoor lighting ordinances and undertake efforts to educate residents about the importance of dark skies.
  • International Dark Sky Parks – Parks are publicly or privately owned spaces protected for natural conservation that implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors.
  • International Dark Sky Reserves – Reserves consist of a dark "core" zone surrounded by a populated periphery where policy controls are enacted to protect the darkness of the core.
  • International Dark Sky Sanctuaries – Sanctuaries are the most remote (and often darkest) places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile.
  • Dark Sky Developments of Distinction – Developments of Distinction recognize subdivisions, master planned communities, and unincorporated neighborhoods and townships whose planning actively promotes a more natural night sky but does not qualify them for the International Dark Sky Community designation.

Further designations include Dark Sky Nation, given to the Kaibab Indian Reservation,[7] and Parashant International Night Sky Province-Window to the Cosmos, given to Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument.[8]

Country Name Location Area (in ha) Bortle scale Status Notes
Australia The Jump-Up, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Winton, Queensland 1,400 1–2 International Dark-Sky Sanctuary Designated on Apr. 27, 2019
Australia Warrumbungle National Park New South Wales 23,312 Dark Sky Park Designated on Jul. 4, 2016
Canada Beaver Hills Alberta 29,300 4.5 Designated on Sep. 3, 2006
Canada Jasper National Park Alberta 1,122,800 1–2 Designated on Mar. 11, 2011[9]
Canada Wood Buffalo National Park[10] Alberta/NWT 4,480,700 1–2 UNESCO World Heritage Designated on June 28, 2013[11]
Canada Cattle Point Oak Bay, British Columbia 5 Urban Star Park Designated March 29, 2013[12]
Canada McDonald Park British Columbia 5 2–3 Designated in 2003
Canada Fundy National Park New Brunswick 20,700 2 Designated on Oct. 31, 2011[13]
Canada Irving Nature Park Urban Star Park Saint John, New Brunswick 243 ? Urban Star Park Designated on Jul. 1, 2011; First RASC-designated Urban Star Park
Canada Kouchibouguac National Park New Brunswick 23,920 2 Designated on Jun. 6, 2009[14]
Canada Mount Carleton Provincial Park New Brunswick 17,427 2 Designated on Jul. 18, 2009[15]
Canada Kejimkujik National Park Nova Scotia 40,400 2 Designated on Aug. 7, 2010[16]
Canada Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre Ontario 129 2 Designated on Nov. 3, 2012 by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
Canada Bruce Peninsula Fathom Five National Marine Park Ontario 16,700 2–3 Designated on Mar. 29, 2009
Canada Gordon's Park Ontario 43.7 2–3 Designated on Aug. 15, 2009; designation is only for the Park though Manitoulin Island (276,611 ha) follows dark-sky practices[17]
Canada North Frontenac Township Ontario 116,000 1–2 Designated on June 28, 2013
Canada Point Pelee National Park Ontario 2,000 3–4 Designated in 2006
Canada Torrance Barrens Ontario 1906 3 Designated in 1999; first Canadian dark sky preserve
Canada Mont Mégantic Observatory Quebec 527,500 2–3 Reserve Designated Sept. 2007; first IDA International Dark-Sky Reserve[18]
Canada Cypress Hills Saskatchewan/Alberta 39,600 2 Designated on Sep. 28, 2004[19]
Canada Grasslands National Park Saskatchewan 92,100 1–2 Designated on Oct. 2, 2009[20]
Czech Republic, Slovakia Beskydy Dark-Sky Park Moravian-Silesian Region, Czech Republic
Čadca District, Slovakia
30,800 3–4 Designated on Mar. 4, 2013; The second world's bilateral dark-sky park[19]
Czech Republic Manětín Dark-Sky Park Plzeň Region 34,600 3–5 Designated on Sep. 15, 2014[21]
Germany Westhavelland Nature Park Brandenburg Designated an IDA International Dark Sky Reserve on Feb. 12, 2014[22]
France Pic du Midi de Bigorre Hautes-Pyrénées 311,200 2–4 International Dark Sky Reserve Designated an IDA International Dark Sky Reserve in December 2013; First IDA International Dark Sky Reserve in France (still now) and in Europe.[23]
Hungary Hortobágy Starry Sky Park 10,000 ? Designated on Jan. 31, 2011; IDA's third international dark-sky park (Silver tier)[24]
Hungary Zselic National Landscape Protection Area 9,042 3–4 Designated on Nov. 16, 2009
Ireland Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve Iveragh Peninsula, County Kerry 70,000 1–3 Reserve Designated an IDA International Dark Sky Reserve on Jan. 27, 2014[25]
Israel Ramon Crater (Makhtesh Ramon) 113.2 2–3 Dark Sky Park Designated September 14, 2017[26]
Korea Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park North Gyeongsang Province, Yeongyang County, Subimyeon 390 Designated on Nov. 1, 2015
Namibia NamibRand Nature Reserve Reserve Designated ???
Netherlands Boschplaat Terschelling, Friesland 2,400 ? Dark Sky Park Designated on Oct. 7, 2016
Netherlands Lauwersmeer Groningen / Friesland 5,000 ? Dark Sky Park Designated on Jun. 26, 2015
New Zealand Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Tekapo 430,000 2[27] Reserve Designated on 9 June 2012[28][29]
Poland Bieszczady Starry-Sky Park Subcarpathia 113,846.5 2–3 Designated on Mar. 8, 2013[30]
Poland, Czech Republic Izera Dark-Sky Park Lower Silesia, Poland
Liberec Region, Czech Republic
7,500 3–4 Designated on Nov. 4, 2009; the first European dark-sky park and the first world's bilateral dark-sky park[31]
Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine East Carpathian Dark-Sky Tripark Poloniny Dark-Sky Park (Slovakia); Bieszczady Starry-Sky Park (Poland); Transcarpathian Dark-Sky Park (Ukraine) 208,667 2–3 Designated on Sep. 9, 2016; first world's trilateral dark-sky park
Slovakia Poloniny Dark-Sky Park Poloniny National Park 48,519 2–3 Designated on Dec. 3, 2010[5]
Slovakia Veľká Fatra Dark-Sky Park Veľká Fatra National Park (part of) 325 3–4 Designated on Jun. 12, 2015[32]
Ukraine Transcarpathian Dark-Sky Park Uzhansky National Nature Park 46,302 2 Designated on Jun. 10, 2016
United Kingdom Exmoor National Park Devon & Somerset, England Reserve Designated 10 October 2011
United Kingdom Galloway Forest Park Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland 75,000 3 Designated on Nov. 16, 2009[33]
United Kingdom Sark British Crown Dependency of Guernsey 545 3 Designated on Jan. 31, 2011; IDA's first international dark-sky island (Silver tier)[34][35]
United Kingdom Isle of Coll Inner Hebrides, Scotland Designated on Dec. 9, 2013[36]
United Kingdom Northumberland National Park Northumberland, England 103,000 Dark Sky Park Designated on Dec. 9, 2013[37]
United Kingdom Brecon Beacons Wales Reserve Designated 19 February 2013
United States Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument Arizona 4,242 km2 Dark Sky Park Designated 2014
United States Death Valley National Park California 13,743 km2 Dark Sky Park Designated 2013
United States Joshua Tree National Park California 3,199.59 km2 Dark Sky Park Designated July 26, 2017[37]
United States Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Colorado 124.4 km2 Dark Sky Park Designated 2015
United States Hovenweep National Monument Colorado, Utah 3.1 km2 Dark Sky Park Designated 2014
United States Big Cypress National Preserve Florida 2,916 km2 Dark Sky Park [38] Designated 2017
United States Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park Florida ?? km2 Dark Sky Park[38] Designated 2016
United States Stephen C. Foster State Park Georgia 32 Dark Sky Park Designated November 2016[39]
United States Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve Idaho Dark Sky Reserve Designated December 2017[40]
United States Potawatomi Wildlife Park Indiana 116 4.5 Designated in 2003
United States Lake Hudson State Recreation Area Michigan 890 3 Dark Sky Preserve Designated in 1993[41]
United States Negwegon State Park Michigan 1,513 Dark Sky Preserve Designated in 2016[42]
United States Port Crescent State Park Michigan 2.4 km2 Dark Sky Preserve Designated in 2012[39]
United States Rockport State Recreation Area Michigan 17.15 km2 Dark Sky Preserve Designated in 2016[39]
United States Thompson's Harbor State Park Michigan 20.68 km2 Dark Sky Preserve Designated in 2016[43]
United States Wilderness State Park Michigan 4,254 Dark Sky Preserve Designated in 2012[44]
United States The Headlands Michigan 220 3–5 Dark Sky Park Designated in 2011[45]
United States Chaco Culture National Historical Park New Mexico 13759 km2 2–3[46] Dark Sky Park Designated on Aug. 28, 2013[5]
United States Clayton Lake New Mexico 69 Designated June 29, 2010[5]
United States Observatory Park Ohio 418.5 ? Designated on Aug. 20, 2011[47]
United States Cherry Springs State Park Pennsylvania 20 2[46] Dark Sky Park Designated as a State DSP in 2000 by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and as the second International DSP by the IDA on June 11, 2007.
United States Big Bend National Park Texas 324,219 ac Dark Sky Park Designated February 11, 2012[10]
United States Copper Breaks State Park Texas 770 Dark Sky Park Designated Aug. 6, 2014[48]
United States Dripping Springs Texas Dark-sky Community Designated February 11, 2014[49]
United States Enchanted Rock Texas 665 Dark Sky Park Designated Aug. 6, 2014[50]
United States Canyonlands National Park Utah 1365 km2 Dark Sky Park Designated 2015
United States Capitol Reef National Park Utah 980 km2 Dark Sky Park Designated 2015
United States Natural Bridges National Monument Utah 3090 2 Dark Sky Park Designated in 2007; first international dark-sky park
United States Goldendale Observatory Washington 2 Designated June 29, 2010[51]
United States Newport State Park Wisconsin 960 Designated in 2017[52][53]

Around observatories[edit]

Name Country Radius (in km)
Mount John University Observatory New Zealand 37
Kitt Peak USA 56
Mont Mégantic Observatory Canada 50
Palomar Observatory USA 48
Mount Hopkins USA 40
Monte Ekar Observatory Italy 30
Asiago Astrophysical Observatory Italy 30
Mount Laguna USA 24
Observatoire de Haute-Provence France 15
Ondřejov Observatory Czech Republic 10
Kleť Czech Republic 10
Dominion Astrophysical Observatory Canada 5
McDonald Observatory USA 92


Some regions, like the following, are protected without any reference to an observatory or a park.

  • ^ "Marine Turtle Protection". Myfwc.com. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  • Canada[edit]

    In the Canadian program, lighting within the area must be strictly controlled to minimize the impact of artificial lighting on wildlife. These guidelines are more stringent than in other countries that lack the extensive wilderness areas that still exist in Canada. The management of a Canadian DSP extends their outreach programs from the public that visit the site to include the promotion of better lighting policies in surrounding urban areas. Currently, dark-sky preserves have more control over internal and external lighting than other programs.

    With the increase in regional light pollution, some observatories have actively worked with cities in their region to establish protection zones where there is controlled light pollution. These areas may not yet have been declared dark-sky preserves.

    Although dark-sky preserve designations are generally sought by astronomers, it is clear that preserving natural darkness has positive effects on the health of nocturnal wildlife within the parks. For example, the nocturnal black-footed ferret was reintroduced to the Grasslands National Park dark-sky preserve and the success of the reintroduction is enhanced by the pristine natural darkness maintained within the park by the DSP agreement.[55]

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