About Dark Skies
Southern Arizona Stargazing
Arizona is home to a variety of stargazing opportunities thanks to ample dark skies throughout the more rural sections of the state. Oracle is one of those special stargazing parks that offers up great night sky views throughout the year. Plan a trip and stick around for one of the many stargazing events that are hosted annually in this scenic southern Arizona location.
International Dark Sky Park Designation
The International Dark-Sky Association, headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, defines an International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) as “a public 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.” The goals of the IDSP Program are to:
- Identify, restore, and protect public lands (national, state, provincial, and other parks and notable public lands) with exceptional commitment to, and success in implementing, the ideals of dark sky preservation and outstanding night skies.
- Promote ecotourism;
- Promote protection of nocturnal habitat and human health, public enjoyment of the night sky and its heritage, and/or areas ideal for professional and amateur astronomy;
- Encourage park administrators to recognize dark skies as a valuable resource in need of proactive protection;
- Provide international recognition for such parks;
- Encourage parks and similar public entities to become environmental leaders on dark sky issues by communicating the importance of dark skies to the general public and surrounding communities, and by providing an example of what is possible with proper stewardship.
History of the Star Party Program at Arizona State Parks
Observe the wonders of the night sky through astronomers’ telescopes at dark sky parks!
Arizona State Parks held its first Star Night Party at Alamo Lake State Park in Wenden, AZ on November 22, 2008. Since that event our astronomy and Star Night Party Program has expanded to yearly events and one-off events at 9 Arizona State Park. Out evening programs showcase Arizona's amazing dark skies! At select events, programming also includes special guest speakers from organizations like the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson and the Mount Lemmon Sky Center. Additional partners have included the Arizona Science Center and the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff. Arizona State Parks recognizes the importance of protecting dark skies as a natural resource. Through the help of dedicated and knowledgeable park volunteers and many local Arizona astronomy groups who make this program possible, our Star Night Party Program will continue to grow.
On March 3, 2011, Alamo Lake State Park (with the Astronomers of Verde Valley, AstroVerde.org) & Kartchner Caverns State Park (with the Huachuca Astronomy Club of Southeast Arizon, (HACAstronomy.com) were the first state parks in the United States to be granted the "One Star at a Time" award and became a member of the Global Star Park Network. This award acknowledges the public stargazing events held at both parks in an effort to increase awareness of astronomy and preserving dark skies for future generations. The awards were presented by the StarLight Initiative, the One Star at a Time organization and Astronomers Without Borders. The Global Star Park Network aims to protect night environments, educate the public, and improve human habitat.
In 2014, Oracle State Park was designated as an International Dark Sky Park. This prestigious designation recognizes Oracle State Park as an exceptional place to view and contemplate the wonders of our night sky. Oracle is far enough away from most light pollution sources making the Milky Way visible, along with many other celestial objects. You can access the American Avenue Parking Area seven days a week. This parking area is open for viewing the night sky or for weekday access to the Arizona National Scenic Trail as well. Download a map and find your way to Oracle to view the brilliant night sky.
Arizona Illustrated – "A Universe of Images" story
Watch as Michael Weasner explains his "decades-long" passion for dark skies, Astronomy, photography and the beauty of Arizona's night sky.