STAR SHINE, STAR SPLENDOR: While Earth Hour typically arrives at the end of March, and close to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, and the national park celebrations of the nighttime sky fall around the summer, there is an April span to keep on the annual calendar: International Dark Sky Week. It's on through Sunday, April 10, and it serves as a starry reminder that half of our day -- or half-ish, depending on the time of year -- is lived in a nighttime world. That world can sometimes be rather bright, which makes connecting with Venus or Jupiter or our moon or the Milky Way a bit of a challenge, or it can be spectacularly unlit, giving the viewer a full sweep of the cosmos above and all around. There are many ways for evening aficionados to mark the week, including just enjoying the after-dark sky in a reverential fashion, but one can also travel to a Dark Sky Place, as designated by the International Dark-Sky Association. There are two in California -- Borrego Springs and Death Valley National Park -- and several more throughout the Western U.S., including Natural Bridges National Monument and Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The association also offers many ways to get involved with their work, which is, at its heart, about cultivating a deep connection to our post-sunset world and all who occupy it, people and animals alike.
DARK SKY NATIONAL PARK: If you want to join a festival that gathers fans to appreciate our velvety heavens, look to some of the Golden State's national parks, which often hold stargazing weekends built around dark sky appreciation. A Dark Sky Festival in Sequoia and Kings Canyon will take place over the first weekend of August 2016 -- astronaut speakers, telescope peeks, and more are on the slate -- while the Lassen Dark Sky Festival follows in the middle of the month. Beautiful times in beautiful surroundings that make for a contemplative arena for considering the issues of our ever-receding evenings. Love low-light-a-tude and a story-filled night sky? Start here.