The Grand Canyon is officially an International Dark Sky Park. Here’s what that means

Big Bend National Park, pictured here, is also an International Dark Sky Park. (CREDIT: Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

If you’re planning on touring the Grand Canyon National Park during the daytime, reconsider. The park’s got one of the world’s best night skies.

The park was just certified as an International Dark Sky Park, which means it’s got a “distinguished quality of starry nights,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association.

That’s no easy rank to score.

The certification process has taken nearly three years, during which time the park has been converting most of its 5,000 light fixtures to “dark-sky compliant.” In the next few years, the park said, 90% of Grand Canyon lights will become night-sky friendly.

One of the association’s greater goals is combating light pollution and protecting the night sky. It has been working to identify the “negative impacts of artificial light at night on human health, wildlife, and climate change.”

Dark sky friendly lights are fixtures that minimize glares and reduce light trespass and sky glow.

To celebrate the certification, the park will hold a ceremony on the morning of June 22, according to a news release.

“The certification does not carry legal or regulatory authority; however, it demonstrates a commitment by parks to improve night skies through the use of more energy efficient, sustainable lighting,” the park said in the release. “Certification also reaffirms Grand Canyon’s commitment to educate the public and gateway communities about the importance of good lighting and opportunities to work together toward common goals.”

The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 as a way to encourage communities to protect “dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.”

It includes communities, parks, reserves, sanctuaries, places, and developments of distinction.

In other words, yes, you could turn your neighborhood into a nighttime observatory if you wanted to.

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