If you wish to become well-informed about light pollution and the dark skies initiative, this article by Ethan Siegel is an excellent place to start. Dr. Siegel is a well known “science writer, astrophysicist, science communicator & NASA columnist.” . . .
For most of us here on planet Earth, navigating the world at night is just a little more challenging than during daytime. Without the Sun’s bright light to illuminate our world, our eyes do their best to adapt. Our color-sensing cones move back in our eyes while the monochrome-sensitive rods move forward. Our pupils dilate to larger diameters, letting more light in. Even in the wild, the Moon and stars provide enough light for a sufficiently dark-adapted eye to make out shapes and objects.
Evolutionarily, this was a spectacularly useful adaptation. Human vision may be optimally suited to daytime vision, but the ways our eyes adjust also allow us to perceive the Universe far beyond our world. Unfortunately, our connection with the night sky has been severed by a truly human endeavor: artificial lighting. While the benefits to public safety and commerce are inarguable, the tradeoff is unnecessary. Light pollution may a worse problem than ever, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
From a truly dark site — on a moonless night where there’s less artificial light generated on Earth than is incoming from the night sky — thousands of stars, multiple planets, the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, and up to four other galaxies beyond our own can be seen. Yet dark sites are becoming harder and harder to find, as the rise in artificial lighting has followed humanity wherever our species has settled. 80% of the entire world, including 99% of Europe and the United States, lives under light-polluted skies, where the Milky Way is never visible even under ideal weather conditions.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was just named the first trans-boundary International Dark Sky Park. Below is the lead-in from the Flathead Beacon’s article on the subject, but also check out the links following it for some spectacular photos . . .
Eighty percent of the United States’ population lives in an area where they can’t see a true dark sky. Around the globe, thanks to light pollution, only one-third of humanity can look up at the sky at night and clearly see the Milky Way.
For Glacier National Park interpretive ranger Lee Rademaker, that means every time the park prepares to host a night sky viewing, “we’re about to blow two-thirds of these people’s minds.”
For years, Glacier and nearby Waterton Lake National Park have been touting their dark night sky as another critical natural resource, just as important as glaciers or goats. On April 28, officials from the United States and Canada gathered at West Glacier to celebrate Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park being named the first trans-boundary International Dark Sky Park.
Astrophysicist and science writer Ethan Siegel has a great article on the importance and increasing rarity of dark skies. It’s a short read, but very informative, with lots of photos and data. Recommended reading . . .
If you don’t have pristine, dark skies, you might never connect to the Universe. But there’s hope.
Human vision is ill-adapted to true darkness, but our eyes can provide us with stellar views of the night sky. Since the invention of artificial lighting, however, our views of those natural wonders have diminished precipitously.
A very nice essay on “dark skies” posted to the Missoulian via the Billings Gazette . . .
When I stepped out from the canopy of trees along the Appalachian Trail into a meadow, I walked into a sea of lights.
Fireflies danced in the night above the midsummer grass. Their larval offspring — the glow worms — hung from the surrounding trees, and like spectators at a giant amphitheater, they watched their parents dance.
Above, stretched over the length of open field, the Milky Way blazed across the moonless night.