Star Party

Arches National Park is now an International Dark Sky Park, “a place recognized for its quality night skies and a commitment to protecting and sharing natural darkness,” the National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association announced on July 5. Arches National Park holds star-gazing parties each year. Visitors are asked to turn off their lights and to use only red lighting; glow-in-the-dark cones are placed around the telescopes to help with visibility. A star party will be held at Arches National Park’s Panorama Point on Sept. 21 to celebrate the designation. [Moab Sun News file photo]

Arches National Park has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park, “a place recognized for its quality night skies and a commitment to protecting and sharing natural darkness,” the National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association announced on July 5.

The announcement was made with a press release by the Southeast Utah Group of national parks. The group includes Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments.

Arches National Park is the last park in the group to receive International Dark Sky Park certification.

Natural Bridges National Monument was certified as the world’s first international dark sky park in 2007.

All four parks work together with neighboring organizations, businesses, communities and land managers to showcase some of the darkest skies in the U.S., the press release said. More than 100 locations have gained the designation. 

The certification does not carry legal or regulatory authority, but instead demonstrates a commitment by parks to improve night skies through the use of more energy-efficient, sustainable lighting, officials said.

The certification also reaffirms the park’s commitment to educate the public and nearby communities about the importance of good lighting and opportunities to work together toward common goals. 

“I am grateful that the International Dark-Sky Association has recognized the southeast Utah parks’ efforts to share spectacular dark skies with the public,” National Park Service Southeast Utah GroupSuperintendent Kate Cannon said. “The certification for Arches is the culmination of more than 10 years’ effort to preserve and share dark night skies in southeast Utah.” 

Rangers have led regular astronomy programs and special events in the park since at least 2012, officials said. They regularly work with staff from nearby dark sky parks to offer Moab visitors an opportunity to explore the night sky.  

“International dark sky park certification gives Arches National Park support to grow these programs and creates economic opportunities for neighboring communities through astronomy based tourism,” the press release said.  

Arches staff have revamped and replaced light fixtures with fully shielded bulbs, and nearly all of the park’s lights are now “night sky friendly,” which means they follow the recommendations by the International Dark-Sky Association to minimize glare and how much blue light is emitted at night. 

Park staff worked closely with the Colorado Dark Sky Cooperative and Moab Dark Skies to engage the City of Moab and Grand County in preserving and enjoying naturally dark skies.

Arches National Park was first established as a national monument in 1929. Today, Arches sees millions of visitors from all over the world.  

Park rangers will host a ceremony and star party at Arches National Park on Sept. 21 to celebrate the designation. The party will be held at Panorama Point.