Nevada’s Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area was recently named a Dark Sky Sanctuary, becoming only the seventh place in the world to receive this designation. The International Dark-Sky Association notes that sanctuaries must meet a strict set of requirements, including having 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.”
This Sept. 24, 2018, image from NOAA-20’s VIIRS day-night band layer was created using a sensing technique used to capture low-light emissions under varying illumination conditions. Here, very little light pollution is visible around the 101,000-acre newly-named Dark Sky Sanctuary that’s located 150 miles north of Reno, Nev.
“While all of the wilderness areas and wilderness study areas in Nevada are special remote places, the Massacre Rim WSA stands out because it is so far from any major populated areas, making light pollution there next to immeasurable,” Friends of Nevada Wilderness executive director Shaaron Netherton said in a press release. “People lucky enough to venture there on a clear moonless night will not only see the enormity of the Milky Way but will also be awestruck to view our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, with the naked eye.”
Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area joins three other U.S. sanctuaries, including Cosmic Campground in New Mexico, Devils River State Natural Area in Texas, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Utah.
Each of these Dark Sky Sanctuaries aims to promote sustainable ecotourism and astrotourism, protect nocturnal habitats and encourage the public to enjoy the vast beauty of the night sky, among other things.