This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Anyone who has been in Capitol Reef National Park after dark knows the wonders of the night sky.

A recent designation by the International Dark Skies Association means visitors will know about it before they arrive.

"Most of Capitol Reef National Park is very distant from large metropolitan areas with associated outdoor lighting that causes perpetual sky glow," Dan Duriscoe of the National Park Service Night Sky Team said in a release. "A climate with a high percentage of cloudless conditions and typically very clear air also contribute to outstanding night sky quality."

As a result, the association named the park a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park. The Gold Tier designation is reserved for the highest quality night skies.

"This designation is a testament to the commitment the park has made to preserve its pristine dark skies for this and future generations," said Capitol Reef National Park Superintendent Leah McGinnis.

Capitol Reef rangers have been trying to connect park visitors with the night skies for more than a decade with astronomy programs.

Volunteers assigned by the park service's Night Sky Team have been leading night programs since 2010. And in the fall, the park hosts an Autumn Heritage Starfest party. Heritage Starfest will be held Oct. 9-10 this year.

Capitol Reef staffers also have tried to cut light pollution in the park by creating an outdoor lighting inventory and improving light fixtures.

Those changes have boosted the park's "night-friendly" lighting rating from 30 to 70 percent.

Other Utah locations with dark sky ratings include Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument and Weber County North Fork Park.

Twitter: @BrettPrettyman

comments powered by Disqus