Arches National Park celebrates super dark skies with prestigious honor

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is silhouetted against the night sky, Moab, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Jacob W. Frank/National Park Service, St. George News

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) — Space lovers and star gazers have even more reason to visit Arches National Park in southeastern Utah: the nighttime nirvana is now officially certified as an International Dark Sky Park.

The prestigious designation, announced Friday by National Park Service and the International Dark Sky Association (IDSA), recognizes the park’s “quality night skies and a commitment to protecting and sharing natural darkness.”

Arches National Park now holds the distinction as one of only 52 dark sky parks based in the U.S., according to the IDSA’s website. The organization defines a dark sky park as “a land possessing an 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.”

Arches National Park is located near Moab, roughly a five-hour drive from St. George.

Officials expect the special Dark Sky Park designation could boost astronomy activity and astronomy-based tourism in nearby communities.

To achieve the extraordinary status, park officials replace light fixtures with fully-shielded bulbs to minimize glare and light emissions. Such extreme darkness illuminates the skyline, stars and planets above, bringing that distant world to life with remarkable definition and detail.

The Dark Sky Park designation will be celebrated Sept. 21 during a ceremony and star party at the newly completed Panorama Point stargazing area within the park.

Three other Utah sites — Canyonlands National Park, and Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments — also hold International Dark Sky Park certifications.

Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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