World-Class Stargazing

Five Virginia parks earn international “Dark Sky” honors.

Joyce Harman 2014

For world-class stargazing, head to one of Virginia’s five Dark Sky Parks. This special designation is awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) to parks around the globe that maintain naturally dark spaces. To date, the IDA has awarded this honor to only 107 such parks worldwide.

In 2021, Natural Bridge State Park in Rockbridge County and Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane joined Virginia’s growing list of Dark Sky Parks, which is now the longest one east of the Mississippi. James River State Park, near Lynchburg; Staunton River State Park in Scottsburg; and Rappahannock County Park, in Washington, Virginia are also included.

Natural nighttime darkness is quickly disappearing worldwide according to the IDA, and light pollution not only blocks our view of the universe, it impacts human health and disrupts wildlife.

David H. Collett, Western Field Operations Manager for Virginia State Parks, says more Virginians have been inspired to visit state parks and check out loaner telescopes and star charts (available from park visitors centers). He encourages visiting a Dark Sky-certified park for the best view of stars and planets. “Once you experience this, you’ll understand why.” he says. For more stargazing tips, visit DarkSky.org.


This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue.

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