Dark-sky preserve

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Dark sky preserve 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 1999, the first permanent preserve was established at Torrance Barrens in the Muskoka region of southern Ontario. 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.[2] IDA has also recognized Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah as the world's first International Dark Sky Park.[3]

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). The lighting protocol for the RASC is based primarily on wildlife sensitivity.[4]

Dark Sky Places[edit]

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,[5] and Parashant International Night Sky Province-Window to the Cosmos, given to Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument.[6]

Dark sky preserves, reserves and parks[edit]

Country Name Location Area (in ha) Bortle scale Status Notes
Canada Wood Buffalo National Park[7] Alberta/NWT 4,480,700 1-2 UNESCO World Heritage Designated on June 28, 2013[8]
Canada North Frontenac Township Ontario 116,000 1-2 Designated on June 28, 2013
Canada Jasper National Park Alberta 1,122,800 1-2 Designated on Mar. 11, 2011[9]
Canada Cypress Hills Saskatchewan/Alberta 39,600 2 Designated on Sep. 28, 2004[10]
Canada Beaver Hills Alberta 29,300 4.5 Designated on Sep. 3, 2006
Hungary Zselic Landscape Protection Area 9,042 3–4 Designated on Nov. 16, 2009
Canada Mont Mégantic Observatory Quebec 527,500 2–3 Reserve Designated Sept. 2007; first IDA International Dark-Sky Reserve[11]
Canada McDonald Park (Abbotsford) British Columbia 5 2–3 Designated in 2003
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[12]
Canada Bruce Peninsula Fathom Five National Marine Park Ontario 16,700 2–3 Designated on Mar. 29, 2009
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 Cattle Point Oak Bay, British Columbia 5 Urban Star Park Designated March 29, 2013[13]
Canada Grasslands National Park Saskatchewan 92,100 1–2 Designated on Oct. 2, 2009[14]
Canada Kouchibouguac National Park New Brunswick 23,920 2 Designated on Jun. 6, 2009[15]
Canada Mount Carleton Provincial Park New Brunswick 17,427 2 Designated on Jul. 18, 2009[16]
Canada Kejimkujik National Park Nova Scotia 40,400 2 Designated on Aug. 7, 2010[17]
United States Lake Hudson State Recreation Area Michigan 890 3 Designated in 1993[18]
United States Natural Bridges National Monument Utah 251 ac. 2 Dark-sky Park Designated in 2007; first international dark-sky park
United States Potawatomi Wildlife Park Indiana 116 4.5 Designated in 2003
United States Cherry Springs State Park Pennsylvania 20 2[19] 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 Observatory Park

(Geauga Park District)

Ohio 418.5  ? Designated on Aug. 20, 2011[20]
United States Copper Breaks Texas 770 Designated Aug. 6, 2014[21]
United States Enchanted Rock Texas 665 Designated Aug. 6, 2014[21]
United States Dripping Springs Texas Dark-sky Community Designated February 11, 2014 [22]
United States Big Bend National Park Texas 324,219 ac Dark-sky Park Designated February 11, 2012 [23]
United States Clayton Lake New Mexico 69 Designated June 29, 2010 [24]
United States Goldendale Observatory Washington 2 Designated June 29, 2010 [24]
United States Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Colorado 124.4 km2 Dark-sky Park Designated 2015
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 Death Valley National Park California 13,743 km2 Dark-sky Park Designated 2013
United States Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument Arizona 4,242 km2 Dark-sky Park Designated 2014
United States Hovenweep National Monument Colorado, Utah 3.1 km2 Dark-sky Park Designated 2014
United States Chaco Culture National Historical Park New Mexico 13759 km2 2–3[25] Dark-sky Park Designated on Aug. 28, 2013[26]
UK Galloway Forest Park Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland 75,000 3 Designated on Nov. 16, 2009[27]
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[28]
Slovakia Poloniny Dark-Sky Park Poloniny National Park 48,519 2-3 Designated on Dec. 3, 2010[29]
Hungary Hortobagy Starry Sky Park 10,000  ? Designated on Jan. 31, 2011; IDA's third international dark-sky park (Silver tier)[30]
UK Sark British Crown Dependency of Guernsey 545 3 Designated on Jan. 31, 2011; IDA's first international dark-sky island (Silver tier)[30][31]
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
UK Exmoor National Park Devon & Somerset, England Reserve Designated 10 October 2011
Canada Fundy National Park New Brunswick 20,700 2 Designated on Oct. 31, 2011[32]
New Zealand Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park Tekapo 430,000 2[33] Reserve Designated on 9 June 2012[34][35]
Canada Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre Ontario 129 2 Designated on Nov. 3, 2012 by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
Namibia NamibRand Nature Reserve Reserve Designated ???
UK Brecon Beacons Wales Reserve Designated 19 February 2013
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[36]
Poland Bieszczady Starry-Sky Park Subcarpathia 113,846.5 2–3 Designated on Mar. 8, 2013[37]
UK Northumberland National Park Northumberland, England 103,000 Designated on Dec. 9, 2013[38]
UK Isle of Coll Inner Hebrides, Scotland Designated on Dec. 9, 2013[39]
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[40]
Germany Westhavelland Nature Park Brandenburg Designated an IDA International Dark Sky Reserve on Feb. 12, 2014[41]
Czech Republic Manětín Dark-Sky Park Plzeň Region 34,600 3–5 Designated on Sep. 15, 2014[42]
Slovakia Veľká Fatra Dark-Sky Park Veľká Fatra National Park (part of) 325 3-4 Designated on Jun. 12, 2015[43]
Ukraine Transcarpathian Dark-Sky Park Uzhansky National Nature Park 46,302 2 Designated on Jun. 10, 2016
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
United States Stephen C. Foster State Park Georgia 32 Dark-sky Park Designated November 2016[44]

Protected zones[edit]

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.

Dark sky preserves by country[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.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rise of the Milky Way". Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "First International Dark Sky Reserve Is Announced in Québec!" (PDF). International Dark-Sky Association. 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  3. ^ "Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument Becomes First International Dark Sky Park" (PDF). International Dark-Sky Association. 2007-04-19. Retrieved 2008-11-26. 
  4. ^ http://www.rasc.ca/sites/default/files/RASC%20DSP%20GOL%20-%20Summer%202013_0.pdf
  5. ^ Tim Hunter (August 28, 2015). "The World’s First IDA Dark Sky Nation". International Dark-Sky Association. Retrieved September 13, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Parashant Receives International Dark Sky Status". National Park Service. February 21, 2014. Retrieved September 13, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Wood Buffalo National Park". Parks Canada. 2013-08-03. Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  8. ^ Thompson, Deborah (2013-08-02). "RASC Designates Wood Buffalo National Park as a New Dark Sky Preserve". RASC Announcements. Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  9. ^ "Jasper National Park named world’s largest dark sky preserve". Parks Canada. 2011-03-11. Retrieved 2011-03-15. 
  10. ^ "Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park Designated as a Dark Sky Preserve". Government of Saskatchewan. 2004-10-08. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  11. ^ "the Mt. Megantic IDSR". AstroLab du park national du Mt. Megantic. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 
  12. ^ "Gordon's Park Dark Sky Preserve". Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. November 2008. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  13. ^ [1] Cattle Point National Urban Star Park Approved, BC Meteor Network news release, March 29, 2013]
  14. ^ "Dark Sky Preserve designation for Grasslands National Park". Parks Canada. 2009-10-02. Retrieved 2010-12-01. 
  15. ^ "Kouchibouguac National Park a Dark Sky Preserve". Parks Canada. 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  16. ^ "Designation requires limited artificial light to protect night skies from light pollution". CanadaEast.com. 2009-07-18. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  17. ^ "Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site a Dark Sky Preserve". Parks Canada. 2010-08-07. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  18. ^ "Lake Hudson Recreation Area". Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Retrieved 2010-12-01. 
  19. ^ Clanton & Associates (May 27, 2008). "Cherry Springs State Park: Light Pollution Analysis and Recommendations" (PDF). Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved March 21, 2009. 
  20. ^ "New Ohio Park Commended for Protecting the Nighttime Environment by International Dark-Sky Association (press release)" (PDF). International Dark-Sky Association. August 22, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Stars Shine Bright in Dark Sky Parks, Texas Highways, Aug. 6, 2014
  22. ^ Dripping Springs Named The First International Dark Sky Community In Texas, Texas Hill Country Trail newsletter, March 2014
  23. ^ Big Bend National Park designated as an International Dark Sky Park, Earth Sky, Feb. 11, 2012
  24. ^ a b International Dark Sky Association Recognizes state parks in New Mexico and Washington for night sky preservation efforts, International Dark-Sky Association news release, June 29, 2010
  25. ^ "Chaco Culture National Historical Park International Dark Sky Park Application" (PDF). National Park Service. July 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 31, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  26. ^ "New Mexican Skies Protected with Dark Sky Park Designation (press release)" (PDF). International Dark-Sky Association. August 28, 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 31, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  27. ^ Carrell, Severin (2009-11-16). "Astronomers name Scottish park one of world's best stargazing sites". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  28. ^ "Izera Dark-Sky Park". 2009. 
  29. ^ "Poloniny Dark-Sky Park". 2010. 
  30. ^ a b http://docs.darksky.org/PR/2011/PRSarkHortobagyFINAL.pdf
  31. ^ http://www.npr.org/2011/02/01/133401367/lights-out-tiny-sark-named-first-dark-sky-island
  32. ^ "Fundy National Park a Dark Sky Preserve". Parks Canada. 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  33. ^ An Application to the International Dark-Sky Association for a Starlight Reserve in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin of the central South Island of New Zealand (PDF). Mackenzie District Council, University of Canterbury, Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, Department of Conservation. 27 January 2012. p. 25. 
  34. ^ "New Zealand’s Aoraki Mackenzie Named World’s Largest International Dark Sky Reserve" (PDF). International Dark Sky Association. 9 June 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  35. ^ McCrone, John (9 June 2012). "Stars in their eyes". The Press. pp. C1–C3. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  36. ^ "Beskydy Dark-Sky Park". 2013. 
  37. ^ "Bieszczady Starry-Sky Park". 2013. 
  38. ^ "Dark sky status awarded to Northumberland Park area". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-12-09. 
  39. ^ "Isle of Coll secures 'dark isle' status". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-12-09. 
  40. ^ "Southwest Kerry area receives dark skies designation". irishtimes.com. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  41. ^ "Sterne Sehen Ohne Lichtverschmutzung: Deutschlands Dunkelkammer". berliner-zeitung.de. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  42. ^ "Manětín Dark-Sky Park". 2014. 
  43. ^ "Park tmavej oblohy Kráľova studňa". www.fatranskatma.sk. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  44. ^ Samuel, Molly (2016-12-02). "South Georgia Park Celebrates 'Dark Sky' Stargazing Status". wabe.org. Retrieved 2017-04-12. 
  45. ^ "Government of Canada reintroduces lost species to the prairie wilderness". Parks Canada. 2009-10-02. Retrieved 2010-12-01. 

External links[edit]