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Utah national park is a new Dark Sky destination

Zion National Park has become another International Dark Sky destination for Nevadans this summer.

The Utah park won certification to join Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef as national parks committed to conserving and protecting its night sky from light pollution, according to a press release.

In Nevada, dark sky destinations include Great Basin National Park 300 miles northeast of Las Vegas, and Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area in western Nevada near the Oregon state line. The iconic Grand Canyon, 280 miles east of Las Vegas, was certified as a Dark Sky Park in 2019. All support education efforts and encourage tourism. Zion joins more than 150 international parks committed to protecting the land from light pollution.

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Senate Bill 52 in May, establishing a voluntary, locally-led Dark Sky Designation program to protect and enhance the state’s iconic night skies for ecological, astronomical and economic importance.

Light pollution is the side effect of excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive use of outdoor artificial lighting. For example, although it feels essential to have outdoor lighting to provide safety and visibility walking the streets at night, the street reflects the harsh lighting from light poles up to the sky, where the clouds further scatter the light, obscuring our view of the night sky.

You’ll be lucky to see the light glimmer of the stars that make up the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt while in the city. But drive towards designated dark-sky places and sparsed stars turn into clusters that slowly begin to reveal the edge of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Not only can visitors take in the views of the starry night, but they also can learn the importance of preserving the dark sky and how it affects the ecosystem, wildlife, and health.

“From Lake Tahoe to Beatty to Ely, Nevada’s extraordinary dark night skies provide ample opportunity for stargazing, and this bill is a reflection of the State’s commitment to protecting our bountiful and beautiful natural resources,” said Sisolak in a statement when signing the bill. “The ‘Dark Sky Designation’ will help continue our focused efforts on improving our economy by helping to create opportunities for jobs and recreation businesses.”

Zion is holding activities through June 12 to experience the dark sky in person. Find ranger-led programs here.

Can’t make it in person? The National Park Service developed a Junior Ranger Night Explorer program that encourages young park visitors to explore, learn, and protect Zion’s dark sky through a downloadable booklet.

For additional information, visit the Zion National Park website at https://www.nps.gov/zion/learn/nature/nightskies.htm

Stephanie Castillo is a 2021 Mass Media reporting fellow through the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Email her at scastillo@reviewjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @PhutureDoctors

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