The nine majestic islands known as the Azores or Açores in Portuguese are located 850 nautical miles off Portugal’s coast. These nine islands and the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo have belonged to Portugal since their discovery by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. These remote islands are known for their unique flora and fauna and, like the Canary Islands, have one of the best dark sky preserves; due to their isolated location in the mid-Atlantic ocean. This is mainly due to the Azores’ remote location and the limit of outside commercial lights outside of the cities, which have allowed these islands to have a unique window to the beautiful milky way galaxy above. The island of Sao Miguel is the largest of the nine islands in the Azores, and above are pictures from various points on the island showing various amazing shots only visible during certain times of the year. As you can see here from Pico’s island, the highest point in all of Azores, the milky way is visible with thousands of stars adorning the early morning sky. Each season brings different patterns and constellations in the atmosphere, making these islands an excellent location for astronomers and star enthusiasts to gather and explore the night sky. Faial’s island has become increasingly popular with nature lovers and overnight admirers who come to relax in complete isolation from the outside world while admiring shooting stars and glowing planets only visible in the darkest night skies. However, some of the best night skies, in my opinion, are on the island of Sao Miguel or Santa Maria. It is here on these two southernmost islands where the magic of the night sky shines. I have seen shooting stars, planets, and thousands of stars shining during the spring and summer months here. The county of Ribeira Grande and Nordeste are the two best places on the island to watch the stars or sky gaze. On the island of Sao Miguel, in the county of Ribeira Grande, a few residents have taken it upon themselves to initiate ways of preserving the night sky that exists in the Azores, working with local municipalities at eliminating unnecessary light pollution. We will soon see the results of various town responses and willingness to reach the goal of a Dark Sky to preserve the region.
An IDA International Dark Sky Community is a town, city, municipality or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies.