Grand Canyon Anointed World’s Newest “Dark Sky Park”

They're having a Star Party later this summer to celebrate

Grand Canyon Anointed World’s Newest “Dark Sky Park”

What a year for the Grand Canyon.

Back in February, it blew the candles out on its 100th birthday, and later this month, the National Park will celebrate its induction as an “International Dark Sky Park,” an distinction thus far only awarded to 70 different public areas around the world.

Handed out by the International Dark Sky Association, the designation denotes any area that “possesses 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.” The association surveys applications over six due dates throughout the year, and accepts bids even from private land, so if the Big Dipper’s really been doing it for you in your backyard lately, you might have a chance.

All the Dark Sky Parks at the moment, though, are public lands. The artificial light that keeps urbanites from basically ever seeing the cosmos (I’m a New Yorker who went to Yosemite recently, and was floored) is nowhere near these areas, which means access to Orion and the Milky Way is available on a near nightly basis.

The Grand Canyon’s inclusion wasn’t as much of a no-brainer as you might think. Grand Canyon Village (where there are lodges and hotels) has been retrofitting itself with lights that are more night-sky friendly for the past three years, though, which likely helped.

This summer, views of Jupiter and Saturn will be available, along with perspectives of Mercury and Mars just after sunset. We recommend heading for the Grand Canyon’s Star Party, which takes place from June 22-29th along the South and North Rims. It’ll kick off that first evening with a ceremony recognizing the park’s new Dark Sky status.

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