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Night Sky Heritage

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.

“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.

International Dark Sky Places Program

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

Since the program began, more than three dozen parks, reserves and communities have received International Dark Sky Place designations.

Without the natural night sky we could not have:

  • Navigated the globe
  • Walked on the Moon
  • Learned of our expanding universe
  • Discovered that humans are made of stardust