Dark Sky Place types
There are five types of Dark Sky Place certifications with different standards and criteria.
International Dark Sky Sanctuaries
A Dark Sky Sanctuary is public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.
A sanctuary differs from a Dark Sky Park or Reserve in that it is typically situated in a very remote location with few (if any) nearby threats to the quality of its dark night skies and does not otherwise meet the requirements for designation as a park or reserve. The typical geographic isolation of Dark Sky Sanctuaries significantly limits opportunities for public outreach, so a Sanctuary designation is specifically designed to increase awareness of these fragile sites and promote their long-term conservation.
International Dark Sky Reserves
An Dark Sky Reserve is 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, or educational value, its 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. Reserves are formed through a partnership of multiple land managers who have recognized the value of the natural nighttime environment through regulations and long-term planning.
International Dark Sky Parks
A certified Dark Sky Park is land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.
The land may be publicly or privately owned, provided that the landowner(s) consent to the right of permanent, ongoing public access to specific areas included in the DarkSky Park designation.
International Dark Sky Communities
A Dark Sky Community is a town, city, municipality, or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies.
Dark Sky Communities excel in their efforts to promote responsible lighting and dark sky stewardship, and set good examples for surrounding communities.
Urban Night Sky Places
An Urban Night Sky Place is a municipal park, open space, observing site, or other similar property near or surrounded by large urban environs, and whose planning and design actively promote an authentic nighttime experience in the midst of significant artificial light.
By virtue of their characteristics, these sites do not qualify for designation within any other International Dark Sky Places category. However, they are worthy of recognition for their efforts to educate the public on the benefits of proper outdoor lighting that ensures public safety while minimizing potential harm to the natural nighttime environment.
Discontinued: Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction
This certification was designed to recognize 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.
As of 1 August 2020, DarkSky no longer accepts new nominations for the Dark Sky Friendly Development of Distinction program.