Being an International Dark Sky Community is a rare distinction, designated to areas that have shown a dedication to the preserving the night sky. The State of Arizona is home to three of these communities with the most recent, Fountain Hills, named one of only two International Dark Sky Communities located near a major metropolitan area. While the main goal is to address light pollution and promote dark sky education, here are five benefits that come with this great honor.

Opportunities for Space Exploration

With a clear night sky, space enthusiasts can see more stars and admire the glow of interstellar constellations. The lack of light pollution creates the perfect setting for astronomers to spot differences between the sky in a city versus a clear dark environment. Look into the sky in a place like New York City and most times you can’t see a single star but in Fountain Hills, you can see the entire Milky Way right from your back yard.

Parks and Communities Provide Public Education about Dark Skies

A better view of astrological phenomenon means parks and communities can provide education to the public about dark skies. These places and organizations have continuous programs to provide information about the importance of nocturnal animals, the benefits of living in a dark sky community and much more. For example, the local Fountain Hills astronomy club offers monthly “star parties” to introduce visitors to various planets and extraordinary stellar objects. They provide guests with telescopes to view the night sky and have experts available to answers about astronomy.

More Visitors Means More Customers for Local Businesses

People from all over the world travel to find dark sky communities. Some people even uproot their lives to move to these communities to enjoy the peaceful nighttime environment. The influx of visitors and new residents means an increase in customers for local businesses. Fountain Hills unique location next to metropolitan Phoenix paired with its Dark Sky community signification make it a popular and convenient location for those looking for a truly dark night sky.

Say Hello to New Outdoor Light Ordinances

When cities are awarded dark sky communities, new outdoor light ordinances go into effect. This means regulating light pollution by controlling different outdoor lighting materials, safety measures and light reduction plans. While it may seem like an inconvenience, these ordinances increase public savings and ultimately saves the environment by allowing animals to operate at their peak natural levels of breeding, hunting and sleep patterns.

Increased Awareness on Light Pollution and Smart Lighting

Did you know that warm lights are considered good for outdoor lighting versus bright white lights that are ideal for indoor usage? Many people do not realize that the lights they are using can be considered harmful to the environment. Dark Sky Communities like Fountain Hills have ongoing programs in place to educate its residents on the benefits of dark skies and the advantages of smart lighting. This type of lighting promotes energy-saving benefits such as lower energy use and a longer life span. Smart lighting options at home may provide increased security as some include motion-detection features.

With cities growing and larger metropolitan areas using more artificial lights, dark sky communities are becoming less common. Not only does light pollution affect your view of the night sky but it can also displace nocturnal creatures. Next time you’re looking for a spot to enjoy the beautiful night sky, head over to a dark sky community like Fountain Hills and get a front row seat to the Milky Way.

Dark Sky Communities are not only beneficial to the environment but can also provide great education for locals and visitors.


Author: Bowen Larsen is community relations airector for the Town of Fountain Hills. Founded in 1970 and incorporated in 1989, today more than 24,000 people call the Town of Fountain Hills home. The Town is located in the northeast portion of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area and is bordered by the McDowell Mountain Regional Park within Maricopa County. The Town’s scenic views and desert terrain provide for a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and golf, in support of healthy lifestyles. Visit .