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Read more about Dark Sky Parks The park is renowned for its stargazing opportunities thanks to its crystal-clear night skies, low humidity, high altitude and world-class astronomy research facility at nearby Siding Spring Observatory. What are Dark Sky Parks?

If young members of your family are interested in the night sky, Cherry Springs State Park in Coudersport, Pennsylvania is a great option. This state park is small at just 1.

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It plays host to multiple programs on weekend nights , when park educators or guest speakers introduce the wonders of the night sky and natural world at night to all ages. How to visit: Cherry Springs is about 4 hours from Pittsburgh, or 4. During the summer months, you can camp overnight at one of 30 sites in the park, but they fill up fast so make your reservation online before you go.

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  • The night skies at 100,000-acre Massacre Ridge are some of the starriest in the world?
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The only way to reach the namesake rock formation is with a backcountry hiking permit administered by the neighboring Navajo Nation. Spend the day exploring dinosaur fossils dating back million years; at night, gaze at stars whose light has traveled the same amount of time.

Chasing stars in our out of this world skies

Straddling the border between Colorado and Utah, you can ponder the vast history of the universe through the geologic record that is so well-preserved in this park. How to visit: There are six campgrounds within Dinosaur National Monument ; some are located within hiking distance of fossils or petroglyphs. More adventurous travelers can raft down the Green River from the Gates of Lodore campground; backcountry spots along the river are reserved for this, and are the most remote parts of the National Monument to ensure dark skies.

But the darkest of dark places are Dark Sky Sanctuaries, remote areas where a lack of development and human presence have preserved the view of the same starry skies that humans hundreds of years ago would have looked at. Massacre Rim easily meets that criteria. With just four small ranching communities and a population of in the vicinity, humans have very little impact on the night sky in the area, making for a stunning spectacle.

Despite the fact that Massacre Rim is naturally dark, it did take some effort to earn the title.

To qualify, last year the group traveled throughout the park via four-wheel drive and on foot, using light measuring instruments and quantifying the night sky using the Bortle Scale, a measure of star visibility and natural light. Those measurements found that the area was close to the top of the chart in star brightness; the starlight was so bright, in fact, it cast shadows. The scores were high enough to qualify the area for sanctuary status, which was granted in March.

The designation comes with no legal obligations for the BLM and no requirements from people living nearby to keep the night sky dim.

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Noah Glick of NPR recently visited the new sanctuary. In general, he reports, locals are happy to preserve the skies, one of the things that makes their area special.

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And you can actually see some small part of it. Massacre Rim is just one of ten Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world. Combating light pollution is good for night skies, saves on energy costs and protects bird and bat species that can be disoriented by excess outdoor light. But preserving some slice of the night sky is getting harder and harder. Today, according to Nadia Drake at National Geographic , an estimated 83 percent of people on Earth live with some degree of light pollution, and 99 percent of the United States and Europe are light polluted. Continue or Give a Gift.

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