BENSON, Ariz. - Arizona is home to yet another place where you can get a good look at the stars.
The International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit based in Tucson dedicated to preserving natural night skies, announced Thursday that it designated Kartchner Caverns State Park as a silver-tier dark-sky park.
Kartchner Caverns, which preserves a set of limestone caverns that total about 2.4 miles in length, is about one hour southeast of Tucson.
The silver-tier designation means that the park’s nighttime environments have minor impacts from light pollution but display good, star-studded night skies. Gold-tier parks have the best nighttime landscapes.
The Huachuca Astronomy Club played a major role in Kartchner Cavern’s dark sky designation. The organization has hosted a number of events, bringing telescopes to visitors to enjoy the night sky. Their first event, held seven years ago, attracted more than 300 visitors.
The Huachuca Astronomy Club also supported a lighting ordinance in Cochise County surrounding the caverns that sets lumen limits for lights, requires shielding, uses curfews and sets maximum values for color temperatures. This is all meant to reduce glare, sky glow and other problems of light pollution.
There are a total of 54 certified IDA Dark-Sky Parks across the globe.
Kartchner Caverns is the fifth dark-sky park in Arizona, the second in the Arizona State Parks system. Oracle State Park became the first dark-sky Arizona State Park in 2014.
To celebrate the new designation, Kartchner Caverns will set up solar telescopes for public viewing on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 2 p.m., weather permitting. Speakers will also commemorate the occasion.