Earlier this year, Big Bend National Park in south Texas was found to be one of the darkest parks, which is good for star gazing. Big Bend became an official Dark Sky site, sharing a designation with places such as Galloway Forest Park, Scotland; Hortobagy National Park, Hungary; and Homer Glen, Ill.

Below is the National Park Service release on the designation. 

Date: February 6, 2012

Big Bend National Park Earns International Dark Sky Association Gold Tier Designation

The designation of Big Bend National Park (BBNP) as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park adds a jewel to the worldwide network of dark sky oases recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association for excellence in night sky stewardship. A Gold Tier designation denotes a sky free from all but the most minor impacts of light pollution, a sight of increasing scarcity in North America. Measurements by the National Park Service Night Sky Team show that the Big Bend Region offers the darkest measured skies in the lower 48 states.

With an area of over 801,000 acres, Big Bend National Park is also the largest International Dark Sky Park to date.

In the southwest of Texas on the Mexican border, clear skies, temperate nights and miles of undeveloped space in the vast and remote Chihuahuan Desert provide an unforgettable stargazing experience. The area, within 150 miles of the McDonald Observatory, is a recognized astronomy haven.

This healthy effort reaches new heights with the BBNP’s Gold Tier recognition. The park has shown initiative in creation of park lighting guidelines and has upgraded nearly every outdoor light fixture within the park. Upgrades were made possible by a Best Practices grant from Musco Lighting. This type of partnership between business and national parks has never been done before. The exterior lights all conform to minimum lighting guidelines, and the park’s lighting energy use has dropped by a jaw-dropping 98%.

BBNP’s ongoing outreach efforts are designed to teach visitors about the importance of protecting the night sky. The natural darkness of the park offers “seeing” opportunities valuable for gathering scientific data and for exposure to a rare and breathtaking view of the cosmos.

Extensive sky quality monitoring has been ongoing since 2003. The near virgin skies offer a rare opportunity to create baseline measurements of actual sky brightness vs. anthropogenic light (light pollution) as well as measure differences in air quality.

Website: http://www.darksky.org/IDSPlaces.