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The Grand Canyon Is the Newest Dark Sky Park in the United States

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To celebrate its new Dark Sky Park status and its 100th anniversary, the Grand Canyon is hosting a Star Party each night between June 22–29.

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To celebrate its new Dark Sky Park status and its 100th anniversary, the Grand Canyon is hosting a Star Party each night between June 22–29.

A great stargazing destination just got even better.

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Less than a month after the International Dark-Sky Association named Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park an International Dark Sky Park, the organization also awarded Grand Canyon National Park with the same designation earlier this week.

The popular Arizona national park—which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year—officially received the designation on June 5, according to the Arizona Republic. The Grand Canyon gained provisional status back in 2016, but since then the park has retrofitted more than 1,500 light fixtures—or two-thirds of the park’s lights—with lower-wattage LED bulbs and shields to direct light toward the ground.

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Such improvements were enough to qualify the Grand Canyon for the Dark Sky Park classification, making it one of the now 69 publicly- or privately-owned spaces around the world that “implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors,” according to the association. But the Grand Canyon isn’t stopping there—officials from the national park say it will have 90 percent of its lighting retrofitted by 2022.

To take advantage of the park’s new stargazing status, you can attend its annual Star Party between June 22 and 29 this month. On each of those eight nights, volunteer amateur astronomers will be on hand starting around 8 p.m. at both the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the south rim and the Grand Canyon Lodge on the north rim to show visitors stars, planets, and more through their telescopes. Highlights this year will include Jupiter and Saturn, but astronomers expect to see Mercury and Mars soon after sunset, too.

Other U.S. national parks that are also certified as International Dark Sky Parks include Big Bend in Texas, Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado, Great Basin in Nevada, Petrified Forest in Arizona, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef in Utah, and Death Valley and Joshua Tree in California. Visit the International Dark-Sky Association’s website to see the full list of Dark Sky Parks around the world.

>> Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to Grand Canyon National Park

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