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Want To Be In The Dark? Death Valley Is Among 20 Recommended Places

The Racetrack area in Death Valley National Park, which boasts one of the darkest night skies in the U.S.
Dan Duriscoe
National Park Service
The Racetrack area in Death Valley National Park, which boasts one of the darkest night skies in the U.S.

Hearing that the International Dark Sky Association has declared that Death Valley National Park is now the world's largest "international dark sky park" sent us in search of other places that the organization recommends if you really like "star-filled nights."

The association, which tries to "call attention to the hazards of light pollution," has recognized:

4 communities.

-- Flagstaff, Ariz.

-- Borrego Springs, Calif.

-- Isle of Sark, Channel Islands, U.K.

-- Homer Glenn, Ill.

5 reserves.

-- Mont Mégantic in Quebec.

-- Exmoor National Park in England.

-- Aoraki Mackenzie, New Zealand.

-- NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia.

-- Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

11 parks.

-- Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah.

-- Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania.

-- Galloway Forest Park in Scotland.

-- Zselic National Landscape Protection Area in Hungary.

-- Goldendale Observatory Park in Washington.

-- Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico.

-- Hortobagy National Park in Hungary.

-- Observatory Park in Ohio.

-- The Headlands in Michigan.

-- Big Bend National Park in Texas.

-- Death Valley National Park in California.

About the 3.4 million acre Death Valley park, the association says:

"The park is distant enough from the large cities of the southwest so that much of the night sky above the desert floor is near pristine and, in many places, offers views close to what could be seen before the rise of cities. The skies there are affected by only the smallest amounts of light pollution classifying it at the highest level of IDA designation and star-filled skies, the 'Gold Tier.' Astronomical objects seen there are available only to some of the darkest locations across the globe."

The National Park Service says that although it has "limited influence over the neon glows of Las Vegas," it is "trying to reduce the amount of local light pollution. National Parks can do this by using outdoor light fixtures that direct light to the ground rather than sideways or upwards, and by eliminating outdoor lighting where it is unnecessary. A plan for doing so is currently being developed at Death Valley National Park. Collecting data on the current state and general trends of nighttime visibility is also important to solving the problem of light pollution. To this end, night sky conditions are monitored at the park annually by a traveling team of scientists."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.