Death Valley National Park - famous for being the site of the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth - is being honored with a new superlative after being named a dark sky park, the largest in the world.
The International Dark-Sky Association announced the designation of Death Valley as a "Gold Tier" International Dark Sky Park today (Feb. 20). That tier is the highest bestowed by the IDA and means that you can view night sky objects only visible in the darkest skies on the planet.
Death Valley is a 3.4-million-acre park located in California in the Mojave Desert, near the border with Nevada. It contains the lowest point in the United States, at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level.
The park is far enough away from the light-polluted cities of the West that its views of the night sky are "near pristine," offering a glimpse of what could be seen before such cities were erected, according to an IDA statement. [6 Stellar Places for Skywatching in the US]
The often cloudless skies also make Death Valley an excellent stargazing spot. (The park averages less than 2 inches, or 5 centimeters, of rainfall a year, with some years seeing no rain at all, according to the park website.)