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Some 2 million people flock to southern California's Joshua Tree National Park every year to see its namesake flora and experience its unforgiving desert environment—but those who leave before sundown are missing out. At night the sky comes alive with stars and now it is being officially recognized as an "International Dark Sky Park," a designation given by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) to "a land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment."
As Desert Sun, a subsidiary of USA Today, reported, Joshua Tree will officially join the list of over 50 other Dark Sky Parks around the world, which draw stargazers and astronomers for clear views of our galaxy, at a ceremony at Joshua Tree's Copper Mountain College on August 12. So why doesn't every remote outpost around the world get the designation? To be a designated Dark Sky Park, the communities that surround it have to actively contribute to minimizing light pollution.
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In Joshua Tree's case, the induction into the prestigious list is a direct result of the surrounding residents not blanketing their front porches with halogens. "The efforts of area residents and communities to carefully choose their outdoor lighting have contributed to the park's designation at the 'silver' level,” park ranger Marker Marshall said in a press release shared with Desert Sun. (The 'silver' level refers to the second of three tiers given to dark sky parks—the highest, gold, is reserved for sites that enjoy "natural, non-polluted, or near-natural night.")
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