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Death Valley: Park wins dark-sky status for starry, starry nights

February 21, 2013|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Stars and the Orion constellation in the night sky over Badwater at Death Valley National Park.
Stars and the Orion constellation in the night sky over Badwater at Death… (Tyler Nordgren )

Death Valley National Park gained a new distinction Wednesday for its night sky and the care it has taken to protect and preserve the darkness.

The International Dark-Sky Assn. selected Death Valley as an International Dark Sky Park for its exceptional skyscape, educational programs and steps it has taken to reduce the glow and glare of artificial lights inside the park. There are 11 parks worldwide that have received the dark-sky moniker.

"Death Valley is a place to gaze in awe at the expanse of the Milky Way, follow a lunar eclipse, track a meteor shower, or simply reflect on your place in the universe," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a statement.

The park that embraces its extremes as the lowest, hottest, driest place in the country is the third U.S. national parkland to receive dark-sky designation from the nonprofit organization headquartered in Tucson, Ariz. Big Bend National Park in Texas and National Bridges National Monument in Utah are the other two. 

Part of the qualification as a dark sky park involved reducing outside lighting at the park's Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells areas and decreasing unnecessary lighting that can ruin night sky viewing. As part of its ongoing activities for visitors, Death Valley will host ranger-led walks and sky-viewing events at Full Moon Festivals on Feb. 23-25, March 25-27 and April 25.
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