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Stars Glitter: International Dark Sky Week

The summer park-based festivals are still ahead, but we can gaze up right now.

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    Need a dose of darkness? Many of California's desert areas, like the Mojave, can provide just that during International Dark Sky Week (and every week). (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

    THAT VELVETY, STARLIT BOWL ABOVE US: So many odes and sonnets and short stories and films have made comment, over the ages, about how we all share the same sky. That goes for modern people, the humans around today, co-existing, but also the earthlings who lived on the planet before we got here. But it hasn't been quite the same sky for the last century-plus, give or take, not in many places. True, we do have wonders like planes and satellites dotting the heavens now, and thank goodness, too -- we get to travel vast distances to see family and we have our contemporary communications -- but nighttime has visibly changed in many metropolitan areas. No longer is the Milky Way a lush and deep spectacle for those staring up, as it was a few centuries ago, nightly, depending on cloud cover. Now we often must search to find easier celestial stand-outs like Orion's belt or the Big Dipper. Thus seeking out dark sky, truly dark sky, the velvety starlit bowl that came standard just a few generations back, is part of what the International Dark Sky Association supports. And it supports a week called International Dark Sky Week, too, which is glows -- or rather dims -- through Sunday, April 19.

    TO "INSPIRE PEOPLE": One of the purposes of the week is to "(i)nspire people to celebrate the beauty of the night sky." Energy waste, the impact on the environment, and other topics are considered throughout the lights-off stretch. But you can simply celebrate it by finding the low-light-iest place you can access, in your region, and making contact, at least visually, with signs of our galaxy. California is also home to two Dark Sky places: Borrego Springs, an official International Dark Sky Community, and Death Valley National Park, an International Dark Sky Park. And hang tight for summertime: Some of our national parks throw Dark Sky events, where fans of the cosmos gather to stare up, socialize, and turn those flashlights off.