A 1600 square mile spot in New Zealand’s South Island has been internationally recognised for its deep dark sky.

The area, which covers Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and more locally known as the Mackenzie Country, has been named the world’s largest international dark sky reserve by the International Dark Sky Association.

The association’s executive director, Bob Parks, says the new reserve is at Gold level status.

“That means the skies there are almost totally free from light pollution. To put it simply,” he says, “it is one of the best stargazing sites on Earth.

The announcement coincides with the Third International Starlight Conference, a United Nations-led effort that emphasizes a star-filled night sky is part of the common heritage of mankind and that protections are necessary to ensure that present and future generations will be able to see the stars.