International Dark Sky Places Program

National Park Stargazing International Dark Sky Places IDA Dark Sky Crater Lake Rim Drive Bend Eugene National Parks Astronomy

With the recent distinction of Sunriver, Oregon being chosen as an “International Dark Sky Place,” we decided to do what we do best–compile resources and provide maps. In this form, what we will be doing is looking at the International Dark Sky Associations “International Dark Sky Places Program,” defining these programs, and provide resources for you about these options that are either in or directly bordering the Pacific Northwest.

In this article, we will be describing the The International Dark Sky Places Program, type.

If you’re curious about different dark sky astronomy options in the Pacific Northwest near you, check out this Unique Astronomy Site tool with a helpful map with write-ups and links! We will be reviewing some of these dark sky member sites in the Pacific Northwest shortly and write more about these program informations.

  1. International Dark Sky Communities
    This designation is given to cities which “excel in their efforts to promote responsible lighting and dark sky stewardship, and set good examples for surrounding communities.[1]” These communities have preserved the night sky as best as possible and can be examples for other cities to follow.
  2. International Dark Sky Parks
    IDA Dark Sky Parks are either privately or publicly owned “land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment. “[2]
  3. International Dark Sky Reserves
    Dark Sky Reserves are “a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment. Reserves consist of a core area meeting minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky preservation in the core.”[3] 
  4. International Dark Sky Sanctuaries
    Sanctuaries are the most remote, and often darkest, places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile. [4]
  5. Urban Night Sky Places
    UNSPs are sites near or surrounded by large urban environs whose planning and design actively promote an authentic nighttime experience in the midst of significant artificial light at night, and that otherwise do not qualify for designation within any other International Dark Sky Places category. [4]

Former Designations

Other ways that the IDA had was to a program that allowed “ subdivisions, master planned communities and unincorporated neighborhoods and townships whose planning actively promotes a more natural night sky, but does not qualify for the International Dark Sky Community designation,”[5] involved in preserving dark skies was through the IDA Dark Sky Friendly Development of Distinction certification. As of August 2020, there were only 5 Dark Sky Developments of Distinction, 3 in Texas, 1 in Florida, and 1 in Oregon. Sunriver, Oregon was the 1 place in Oregon with this certification. This would have been a great program for planned citied to get some travelers to come visit, and be environmentally friendly as well as friendly to astronomers.

How Does One Join These Programs?

There are strict rules for potential members, which can take years to go from start to finish. There are 3 general stages, which have to be accomplished by a potential member. Applications can occur anytime during the year and are reviewed on a quarterly basis. Each type of dark sky place has their own requirements, but each type has its recommendations that vary per type. Those interested should check out each type for its own specific details.


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