On August 13, 2019, Bryce Canyon National Park received certification as an International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) from the International Dark Sky Association and National Park Service. After over a decade of hard work, this certification comes at an opportune time as the park is celebrating 50 years of night sky outreach and support through their astronomy education programs.
About the Certification
The award-winning International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and other areas around the world to preserve and protect the night skies. Protection of the night skies includes responsible lights and public education. Often, visitors that come to marvel at the starry sky have been surrounded by urban city environments and light pollution that prevents them from viewing such a natural beauty.
This certification recognizes Bryce Canyon as a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park that indicates the exceptional quality of the park’s night skies. With this award, the park becomes one of over 120 certified IDSPs in the world. As one of the first parks to offer night sky programs, this achievement only continues a long tradition of dark sky advocacy, education, and conservation.
Bryce Canyon’s astronomy programs are a great way to participate in the observation of a beautiful scenic view of the park at night with the hoodoos as a silhouette to the Milky Way backdrop.
Multiple staff, rangers, and volunteers are qualified to give detailed astronomy presentations that occur on Wednesday and Friday evenings from May to September. These astronomy programs are usually a short presentation followed often by stargazing with telescopes. No reservations are required, but it is advised to arrive 15-30 minutes early. Ranger-guided full moon hikes are an exciting way to experience the park and its stunning sky. Full moon hiking spots are limited and last 1-2 miles or 2-3 hours. Other astronomy events include occasional special guest astronomers or the annual Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival.
The Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival celebrates the new moon in late June or early July each year. During the festival, rangers conduct more nightly presentations and night hikes. Experts also lead telescope-viewing sessions throughout the festival. Plan ahead for the next festival as they celebrate their 20th annual event year from June 17-20, 2020.
As you plan your next vacation, consider Bryce Canyon National Park and the opportunity to view up to 7,500 stars on a moonless night with the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon.
For more information about astronomy in Bryce Canyon Country, visit our astronomy page.