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International Dark Sky Sanctuaries

International Dark Sky Sanctuaries Image

Moonrise over the telescope domes on Cerro Tololo, with the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds visible and the Galactic Center rising. (Photo by Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy).

An IDA Dark Sky Sanctuary is public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.

A sanctuary differs from a Dark Sky Park or Reserve in that it is typically situated in a very remote location with few (if any) nearby threats to the quality of its dark night skies and it does not otherwise meet the requirements for designation as a park or reserve. The typical geographic isolation of Dark Sky Sanctuaries significantly limits opportunities for public outreach, so a sanctuary designation is specifically designed to increase awareness of these fragile sites and promote their long-term conservation.

Certified IDA International Dark Sky Sanctuaries

Certify an International Dark Sky Sanctuary

IDA certifies International Dark Sky Places following a rigorous application process requiring applicants to demonstrate robust community support for dark sky protection and document category-specific program requirements. Learn more and start the process here.

Download the current International Dark Sky Sanctuary Guidelines

2018 International Dark Sky Sanctuary Guidelines (PDF)
Sanctuary (IDSS) Applicant Self-Checklist (May 2023)

Submission and Review Process

Dark Sky Sanctuary applications are reviewed on a rolling basis and in the order they are received. When the applicant completes a draft application, they will need to email a single PDF document to the Director of Conservation with the name of the site and certification category in the subject line. Staff will reach out to the applicant with further instructions and guidance to craft a complete and thorough application. Once IDA Staff deems the application complete, it will be provided with a batch of other completed nominations to the Dark Sky Places Committee (DSPC) for consideration.

Resources for applicants

Sample Lighting Management Plan (PDF)
Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Guidelines for Outdoor Lighting (PDF)
How to conduct a night sky quality survey

For current International Dark Sky Sanctuaries

Writing International Dark Sky Sanctuary annual reports