International Dark Sky Place designations almost always begin with a small group of individuals who organize to seek formal protection of their nightscape. By arranging for good outdoor lighting policies, rehabilitating poor-quality outdoor lighting installations, and reaching out to educate neighbors and visitors on the importance of dark skies, International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) set a positive example for their communities and countries.
How The Certification Process Works
The International Dark Sky Places certification process is modeled on other conservation and environmental designation programs, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves. Certifications are made on the basis of a written application (see below).
The International Dark-Sky Association does not select International Dark Sky Places, but rather a site is nominated by a group or individual with a comprehensive application. There are five categories for designation within the IDSP Program: International Dark Sky Parks, Communities, Reserves, Sanctuaries, and Urban Night Sky Places. Each category has its own set of guidelines based on land management, size, and sky quality. See Eligibility and Guidelines below.
After reviewing the guidelines, applicants can start the designation process by submitting an inquiry (below) for their site. From there, IDA staff will provide an initial assessment of the place and next steps for the applicant. IDA staff will continue to work closely alongside the applicant as they gather all the necessary evidence in support of the designation as outlined in the guidelines.
Once the application is complete and has been reviewed by the IDSP Program Manager, it is submitted to the IDSP Committee whose members are themselves previous, successful IDSP applicants. The Committee judges the quality of the application and makes a recommendation to the IDA Board of Directors for final approval. An application that receives the IDSP Committee’s endorsement is forwarded to the IDA Board of Directors, which has 10 calendar days to vote to accept the proposal or send it back to the applicants. Once the Board’s approves the applications, the International Dark Sky Place is considered officially “certified.” IDA will then cooperate with the new International Dark Sky Place to arrange an announcement date and issue an accompanying press release.
The entire process takes, on average, 1-3 years from initial inquiry to formal designation.
The eligibility of sites for participation in the International Dark Sky Places program depends on the category of the designation sought.
- Communities: Must have some type of legal organization that is officially recognized by outside groups. This can be in the form of a town, city, municipality or other legally organized community (such as an urban neighborhood or subdivisions). There is no night sky quality criterion associated with this category.
- Parks: Must be public or private land, accessible to the public in part or whole, that is legally protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment purposes. The core area must provide an exceptional dark sky resource, relative to the communities and cities that surround it, where the night sky brightness is routinely equal to or darker than 21.2 magnitudes per square arc second.
- Reserves: Must be a public or a private land of at least 700 km², accessible to the public in part or whole, that is legally protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment purposes. The core area must provide an exceptional dark sky resource, relative to the communities and cities that surround it, where the night sky brightness is routinely equal to or darker than 20 magnitudes per square arc second.
- Sanctuaries: Must be a public or a private land, accessible to the public in part or whole, that is legally protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment purposes. The site must provide an exceptional dark sky resource where the night sky brightness is routinely equal to or darker than 21.5 magnitudes per square arc second.
- Urban Night Sky Places: Must be a a municipal park, open space, observing site, or other similar property, accessible to the public in part or whole, located within the region enclosed by a perimeter extending 50 km beyond the edge of the continuously-built area of a municipality with a permanent population of 10,000 or more people within its territorial jurisdiction, or 50,000 or more people if defined as a “metro area” of two or more adjoining municipalities. There is no night sky quality criterion associated with this category.
Not sure which category best matches your situation? Please fill out a General Application inquiry form and we’ll help determine the most appropriate category for your location.
IDSP Program Guidelines
These PDF documents are the complete set of rules and requirements for each of the five IDSP designation categories.
Applications are accepted at a series of deadlines that occur quarterly throughout the calendar year. The deadlines for 2020 are:
|24 February 2020||25 May 2020|
|24 August 2020||30 November 2020|
The IDSP Committee will review an application received by any particular deadline at the following deadline; for example, an application received by the February deadline would be reviewed by the Committee in late April, with a final decision expected around the end of the first week of May.
Start The Process!
Are you curious about applying or just want more information? Start by completing one of these web forms:
International Dark Sky Community Inquiry
International Dark Sky Park Inquiry
International Dark Sky Reserve Inquiry
International Dark Sky Sanctuary Inquiry
Urban Night Sky Place Inquiry
Not sure? Use our General Application