Night Sky Heritage

"Of all the phenomena of nature, the celestial appearances are, by their greatness and beauty, the most universal objects of the curiosity of mankind." — Adam Smith, philosopher and pioneer of political economy 

Dark Sky Camping Richardson


Photo by Jim Richardson


Unfortunately, millions of children across the globe will never see the Milky Way from their homes.

The nighttime environment is a precious natural resource for all life on Earth, but the glow of uncontrolled outdoor lighting has hidden the stars and changed our perception of the night.


The Natural Night Sky Inspires

Until recently, for all of human history, our ancestors experienced a sky brimming with stars – a night sky that inspired science, religion, philosophy, art and literature including some of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets.

The natural night sky is our common and universal heritage, yet is rapidly becoming unknown to the newest generations.

StarryNight van Gogh


“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” — Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh painted his famous “Starry Night” in Saint Rémy, France, in 1889. Now, the Milky Way can no longer be seen from there.  If he were alive today, would he still be inspired to paint “Starry Night”?

Experiencing the night sky provides perspective, inspiration, and leads us to reflect on our humanity and place in the universe. The history of scientific discovery and even human curiosity itself is indebted to the natural night sky.

Click here to see a gallery of artwork through history influenced by dark night skies.


International Dark Sky Places Program

For these reasons, the International Dark-Sky Association established the International Dark Sky Places Program in 2001. It recognizes excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach.

Since the program began, seven communities, 16 parks and eight reserves have received International Dark Sky Place designations. Click here to learn more about the program.


Without the natural night sky we could not have:

MilkyWaySign Richardson


Photo by Jim Richardson
  • Navigated the globe
  • Walked on the Moon
  • Learned of our expanding Universe
  • Discovered that humans are made of stardust.





Dark Sky is a documentary about the Aoraki_Mackenzie IDA International Dark Sky Reserve made by Jerry Rock-Archer & Laura Sargisson for their Masters of Science Communication in Documentary Filmmaking at the University of Otago, New Zealand

Kevin Poe, Dark Sky Ranger and IDA Dark Sky Ambassador explains humanity’s connection to the stars.

Kevin Poe, Dark Ranger and IDA Dark Sky Ambassador, makes a compelling case for night sky preservation in terms of keeping epic stories alive. In the darkest possible night sky a human with keen vision can see about 7,500 stars. While that may seem like a lot, ancient cultures around the world and throughout time, realized it was a finite amount and so they only put their best stories in the sky. Now these stories, like the sky itself, are endangered -- some are already extinct! As the Dark Ranger says "It's time to take a stand!"













Ancients, a film shot over 12 days around the San Pedro de Atacama region of Northern Chile, follows the daily cycle of sunset, to night, to sunrise.  This cycle is a continuous loop of perpetual movement that has been unbroken since the dawn of time, and the only true constant in our lives.  

Yosemite HD II is a 200-plus-mile backpacking experience through Yosemite National Park captured by Colin Delehanty and Sheldon Neill. This project was filmed over the course of 10 months in which Delehanty and Neill spent a combined 45 days in the Park.

Staying in the dark is the best way to see the light is a film about dark sky photographers Cory Hansen and Justin Bortnick who capture the beauty of the night sky through time-lapse photography to raise awareness about light pollution.

In 2013 a time-laspe photographer went searching for beautiful views and dark skies and found them at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah and in the Black Hills in South Dakota and the Loess Hills in Western Iowa. Just Visiting is the result.


In Search of Night is a time-lapse video in tribute to the photographer’s father who taught him to appreciate nature and the stars.

Time-lapse photographer Ewan Miles spent seven weeks on the Isle of Coll, an IDA International Dark Sky Community, to capture the sky at night and create this short film to help promote astro-tourism on the dark island.


Recent News about the Importance of Starry Skies 

Mesmerizing Photos Of What The Night Sky Is Supposed To Look Like (Fast Company)
These photos show some of the best-preserved nightscapes, all in national parks, where light pollution hasn't blinded us from the majesty of the stars. Read more.

This Is How Cities Would Look at Night Without Lights
These imagines, by Theirry Cohen, portray skylines of major cities with no lighting and starry night skies. Read more

Falling in Love with the Dark (Nautilus magazine)
If you see a car along that road,” Tyler Nordgren warned me, “don’t look at the headlights. It’ll ruin your night vision for 2 hours.” Nordgren and I had pitched our tents under the brow of Mount Whitney in the Alabama Hills, a field of boulders near Death Valley. We watched it get dark, and in the nighttime horizon, the sky was perforated by stars and streaked by the Milky Way. Read more.

25 Amazing Shots of the Night Sky (
Photographer Mike Taylor usually spends a lot of time planning out his shots, wandering the trails in his home state of Maine looking for the best foreground elements for the astronomical backgrounds he likes to shoot — the stars, constellations, the Milky Way. Read more.