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Starry night at Canyonlands National Park Meteor shower at Mojave National Preserve NPS catalogs night sky quality throughout the country Moonlight illuminates the sandstone at Natural Bridges National Monument Milky Way at Crater Lake National Park Starry night at Arches National Park


Night Sky

The Milky Way rising over your campsite, the shimmering moon guiding your way, and the fading light that draws one's thoughts inward. These are all aspects of natural darkness that inspire park visitors and complete a national park experience.

Starry night skies and natural darkness are important components of the special places the National Park Service protects. National parks hold some of the last remaining harbors of darkness and provide an excellent opportunity for the public to experience this endangered resource. The NPS is dedicated to protecting and sharing this resource for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

The NPS uses the term "natural lightscape" to describe resources and values that exist in the absence of human-caused light at night. Natural lightscapes are critical for nighttime scenery, such as viewing a starry sky, but are also critical for maintaining nocturnal habitat. Many wildlife species rely on natural patterns of light and dark for navigation, to cue behaviors, or hide from predators. Lightscapes can be cultural as well, and may be integral to the historical fabric of a place. Human-caused light may be obtrusive in the same manner that noise can disrupt a contemplative or peaceful scene. Light that is undesirable in a natural or cultural landscape is often called "light pollution."

Featured Topics

Night Sky Map & Database

Night sky images and data are now available online through a database that can be viewed using Google Earth.

Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative is on Facebook!

"Like" this page to learn more about a group promoting dark night skies conservation and appreciation on the Colorado Plateau.

Night Skies - No Barriers Youth Partnership

Learn more about our collaboration with a nonprofit group challenging students across the country to engage with the night sky!

Science of Light

Meteor shower at Mojave National Preserve

Feeling a bit overwhelmed with the terminology? Want to better understand the science behind light? A little background will help you understand how the NPS manages this resource. Learn more...

Managing Lightscapes

A starry night at Glacier National Park

The night sky can be one of the most awe-inspiring views we will ever experience. But the night sky and natural darkness are becoming lost in the glow of artificial lights. Learn more...

Light Pollution

Starry night at Arches National Park

How could something as common as light be considered a pollutant? After all, the day is full of light, so how could a little light at night be a problem? Discover the answer.
Learn more...

Measuring Lightscapes

NPS catalogs night sky quality throughout the country

The NPS has pioneered methods for measuring the quality of the nighttime environment by using special cameras. Here's how we know how dark it is. Learn more...

Exploring Night Skies

Milky Way at Crater Lake National Park

Looking upon a starry night sky is a moving experience. Interested in seeing this for yourself? Get started on your quest for starlight. Learn more...

Making a Difference

Moonlight illuminates the sandstone at Natural Bridges National Monument

Protecting dark skies simply requires that outdoor lights be used judiciously, respecting our human environment, wildlife, and the night sky. Learn more...

Useful Resources

Last Updated: May 18, 2015