Located 39 miles (62 km) west of Gainesville, Manatee Springs State Park enjoys some of the darkest skies in Florida. In winter, West Indian manatees swim upriver to the warmer waters of the springs in this park. Snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming allowed. The park is open until sundown, but there is a campground for overnight visitors. A friend of EarthSky has said that the park is “free from night lights.” Stargazing events have been held in Chiefland (only a few miles south of the state park), which has led the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) to encourage Manatee Springs State Park to apply for recognition as a Dark Sky Park, stating that “this park is located in some of the last remaining dark areas in FL.”
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.