International Dark Sky Park FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What does International Dark Sky certification mean?

This certification recognizes the exceptional quality of starry nights and provides added opportunities to enhance visitor experiences. International Dark Sky Park certification gives the National Park Service support to grow dark sky ranger programs and creates economic opportunities for neighboring communities as well through astronomy-based tourism.

Achieving certification recognizes the efforts a park has made to protect dark skies and raises the awareness of dark skies among the surrounding community. Certification also entitles a park to display the International Dark-Sky Association logo in official park publications and promotions, and enables use of this logo by commercial or other groups within the community to promote astro- and eco-tourism.

Are there regulatory requirements that accompany the certification?

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

How does a park gain International Dark Sky Certification?

The Dark Sky Places certification process is modeled on other conservation and environmental designation programs, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves. Certifications are made on the basis of a written applications. For park certifications, the park can include public or private land, is accessible to the public in part or whole, and is legally protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment purposes. The core area must also provide an exceptional dark sky resource, relative to the communities and cities that surround it, where the night sky brightness is routinely equal to or darker than 20 magnitudes per square arc second.

What are the goals for International Dark Sky certification?

According to the International Dark-Sky Association, the goals are to:

  • To identify, restore, and protect public lands, such as national, state, provincial, and other parks, and publicly accessible private lands, with exceptional commitment to, and success in implementing, the ideals of dark sky preservation and outstanding night skies.
  • To promote eco- and astro-tourism
  • To promote protection of the natural nighttime environment, public enjoyment of the night sky and its heritage, and/or areas ideal for professional and amateur astronomy
  • To encourage conservation professionals to recognize dark skies as a valuable resource in need of proactive protection
  • To provide national and international recognition for such parks
  • To encourage parks and similar public entities to become environmental leaders on dark sky issues by communicating the importance of dark skies to the general public and surrounding communities, and by providing an example of what is possible with proper stewardship

About the International Dark-Sky Association: IDA’s mission is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. Learn more at

Last updated: July 5, 2019

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