Valles Caldera National Preserve has become the latest US spot to be certified as an International Dark Sky Park. This certification recognizes the exceptional quality of the preserve’s night skies and enhance visitor experiences through astronomy-based interpretive programming.

The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education. Valles Caldera has been designated as an area where it is possible to see the Milky Way, meteor showers, planets and star constellations, unobstructed by light pollution. Located in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, it is deemed an excellent place to learn about and enjoy the wonders of the night sky.

While the certification does not carry any legal or regulatory authority, it demonstrates a commitment by land managers to improve night skies through the use of energy-efficient, sustainable lighting. It promotes public education and astronomy-based recreation in parks, while improving energy efficiency and reduced operational costs through outdoor lighting upgrades. The 13.7-mile-wide Valles Caldera now joins more than 100 locations that have received dark sky certification. When it's safe to hold large gatherings, the preserve plans to host astronomy–based events throughout the year in collaboration with many partner organizations.

Storm over grasslands in Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico
Valles Caldera National Preserve is now an international dark sky park © Jim Ekstrand/Getty Images

“The night sky has inspired countless humans to dream, invent, and explore," says Superintendent Jorge Silva-Bañuelos. "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.”

For stargazers in the US, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota was also recently named an International Dark Sky Park. Further information can be found at the International Dark-Sky Association here.

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