Jun 10, 2023 - Science

Charted: Distance to dark skies

Data: International Dark-Sky Association, GoAstronomy; Note: Map only includes places with a known classification of 1 or 2 on the Bortle scale, indicating low levels of light pollution; Distance calculated as a direct path; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Some stargazers have to travel more than 200 miles to see a sky devoid of light pollution.

Why it matters: Dark skies are vital for the function of local ecosystems and our understanding of the universe. As light pollution grows each year, truly dark skies might get harder to find.

By the numbers: The U.S. has over 60 dark sky places certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. Nine are "sanctuaries," areas of remote wilderness specifically protected for exceptional stargazing. Hundreds more, while not certified, have low-enough light pollution to warrant a visit.

  • Residents of New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island have the farthest average distance to dark skies, while Maine, Utah and Hawaii residents are the closest.

Under the darkest of skies — when stars are the only source of light — you can even see shadows cast by the Milky Way.

Editor’s note: This story’s map and text have been updated with the correct locations of dark skies and their proximity to various states. The note below the map was updated to clarify that it includes only places with a known classification of 1 or 2 on the Bortle scale.

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