The United States has a brand new International Dark Sky Park located in north-central New Mexico. This week, the National Park Service and International Dark Sky Association announced that Valles Caldera National Preserve has been officially certified as an International Dark Sky Park. And they don’t hand out that designation to just anyone. To qualify, the park must have exceptionally high-quality night skies, and additional opportunities for enhancing visitor experiences through astronomy-based programming.
The park’s superintendent Jorge Silva-Banuelos said, “The night sky has inspired countless humans to dream, invent, and explore. With this certification, we are committed to preserving our dark night skies and sharing all that we can learn from them with our surrounding communities and visitors to Valles Caldera.”
The International Dark Sky Places Program started in 2001 with the aim of encouraging communities, parks, and protected areas to protect dark sky sites and improve education initiatives surrounding astronomy. The certification itself carries no legal authority, but it does put the focus on destinations that have made a commitment to public education and sustainable, efficient lighting.
There are currently over 100 dark sky certified destinations around the world, with Valles Caldera being the 20th national park site to receive the designation.