Experts say that 80 percent of North American residents live in areas where light pollution obscures the night sky. But there is one place in the United States that has earned exalted status from the International Dark-Sky Association. In December 2017, researchers concluded that the night sky in a 1,400-square mile (3,600-square kilometer) chunk of central Idaho is so pristine that interstellar dust clouds are visible in the Milky Way. The sparsely populated area is now considered the nation’s first International Dark Sky Reserve.
A stellar place to stargaze:
- The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is the third largest of 12 such reserves worldwide. Others include Aoraki Mackenzie in New Zealand and Exmoor National Park in England.
- The area includes some of the most remote and rugged areas in the state and mostly consists of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service. It includes the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
- "That such truly dark nighttime environments still exist in the United States is remarkable," said J. Scott Feierabend, executive director of the Tucson, Arizona-based association.