With the 2017 expulsion of Goldendale Observatory State Park as an International Dark Sky Park due to failure to provide night sky conservation education or advocacy, the Goldendale business and political community faced a conundrum - how to regain the lost notoriety for Goldendale Observatory State Park to drive tourism, while at the same time continuing to do little if anything to protect the Observatory’s night sky from decades of unrestrained and increasing light pollution.
"Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new." When it comes to protecting the night sky of the Goldendale Observatory State Park, there is no such thing as leadership at City Hall.
Local business interests see Goldendale Observatory State Park merely as an "amusement park" and "marketing tool" to be exploited for "economic and commercial gain." In 2020 the Mayor and City Council of Goldendale contracted with Dana Peck and the "Goldendale Chamber of Commerce to assist the City and State Parks in submitting an application to the IDA in efforts to re-designate the Goldendale Observatory as a Dark Sky Park, or have the City recognized as a Dark Sky Community... and advise on issues such as outdoor lighting."
On March 2, 2020, Mayor Canon’s application letter, drafted by Peck and the Chamber of Commerce for a Provisional International Dark Sky Community Status, was submitted to the International Dark Sky Association. In it Canon states that the revised 2017 outdoor lighting policy “which while it attempts to meet the intent reflected in the IDA Dark Sky Community application, there are minimum requirements in that application that are currently not addressed in the code.” These requirements – which were present in the initially approved revision of the 1979 lighting code and modeled after other well-known and successful Dark Sky Community lighting ordinances – were torpedoed after intervention by local hotel owner and State Representative Gina Mosbrucker and other Goldendale business community interests. These removals went unopposed by Washington State Parks Area Manager Lem Pratt, as Parks had entered into a "partnership network" with deregulation advocate and Chamber Executive Director Peck, who also remained mute.
The Canon/Peck International Dark Sky Community application letter stated that “the City, working in partnership with the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce, has engaged in an extensive community stakeholder outreach effort focused on the importance of dark skies over the last several years.” It additionally stated these were “initiated by a two-day Gorge Night Sky event  with speaker Paul Bogard and Google-funded light pollution manual, a less visible Chamber-led dark sky public education has been underway with local student groups and businesses, stressing the importance of the effort to the Goldendale Observatory.” The "less visible" description is an understatement – it was and remains non-existent. There have been no education efforts – "extensive" or otherwise – by the City or Chamber, and there is no documentation reflecting this alleged “extensive community outreach.”
Betraying the falsehoods above, there was a remains no use of the easiest to achieve education and outreach avenues – websites operated by both the City of Goldendale and Goldendale Chamber of Commerce are devoid of any mention of night sky conservation, or even the existence of lighting codes and their importance in protecting the night sky of the Observatory. Observatory Director Troy Carpenter’s website – “proudly provided by the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce” – is also devoid of any mention of night sky conservation issues. Note that this website was originally the Friends of Goldendale Observatory’s, which was taken over by the Chamber of Commerce when Carpenter and Peck deemed there was too much emphasis on light pollution – the reason the Observatory was placed in Goldendale by Clark College rather than Portland/Vancouver. Carpenter stated the topic of light pollution was “unpopular,” “pandering to amateur astronomers,” and efforts to mitigate it a “waste of money.” The Friends have since gone on to produce the Dark Sky Defenders website for night sky conservation education. The only place you will find public information on light pollution and the Goldendale and Klickitat County lighting codes is on the new Friends website.
Carpenter stated “New area parks management are working closely with the IDA, local businesses, and community leaders to apply for an IDA status which acknowledges the darkness of the site but does not require parks staff to behave in an activist or legislative capacity.” Regardless of Carpenter’s misrepresentations of the IDA night sky conservation public education and advocacy requirements, the "effort" to become a Dark Sky Community has completely failed. When a community member asked at the Chamber’s After Hours event on April 29, 2021, about the status of any Dark Sky designation attempts, Observatory Director Carpenter responded, “I can clear up some misunderstandings about that. We’re not going to be reapplying for that status. I would go out of my way to avoid doing so actually" (emphasis added). He deferred to Mayor Canon regarding the Dark Sky Community designation, who responded, "It's still continuing, I haven't gotten an update on where we are on it – we should be there."
A May 3, 2021 public disclosure request to the City of Goldendale for additional documentation regarding the application status or results yielded a statement from the City Manager that no documentation exists. Initial and follow-up inquiries to the IDA resulted in the following statements:
May 14, 2020 – IDA Dark Sky Places Program Manager Adam Dalton: "Frankly, as proposed the Provisional IDSC for Goldendale, WA has absolutely no chance of being approved by the DSPC [Dark Sky Places Committee]. The only approved use of the Provisional certification which is approved by the DSPC applies to places where there are extensive lighting stocks which must be retrofitted in order to meet the 90% in 5 years requirement as mandated by the IDSC guidelines. The applying site must otherwise submit a totally-completed IDSC application which meets all of the other Program requirements, including adoption of a lighting management plan which meets IDSP Program standards. From what I can tell, it appears the City fundamentally misunderstands the IDSC certification process at this time."
May 11, 2021 – Interim IDA Dark Sky Places Program Manager John Barentine: "There’s no indication that anything ever got off the ground in the way of a new nomination for Goldendale. There’s nothing “continuing”, because I find no evidence that anything ever started. I can confirm that nothing is happening, much less imminent... Goldendale has submitted nothing to us, so there’s no pending nomination of which to speak."
Apparently a completed International Dark Sky Community application and supporting documentation was never submitted to the IDA by the Chamber of Commerce and its minions. This would have included an outdoor lighting inventory and compliance plan which would have included first having brought Goldendale's lighting code up to snuff. It is obvious Mayor Canon is either completely disengaged and let the wool get pulled over his eyes by Peck, or was being dishonest when he stated, "we should be there." Goldendale's several-thousand-dollars contract with the Chamber of Commerce to become an International Dark Sky Community has been a huge waste of its citizens’ money.
An International Dark Sky Community designation was bound to fail with Peck because it requires "exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality lighting policies, dark-sky education, and citizen support of the ideal of dark skies." IDSC Guidelines. The Chamber has not demonstrated any desire for the implementation or enforcement of quality night sky outdoor lighting policies. Especially troublesome was Peck's previous unethical behaviors and outright opposition to enforcement of even the bare-bones City and County lighting codes, as well as collusion with Observatory Director Carpenter to cripple meaningful dark-sky education and undermine public support for effective night sky protection. However, that was apparently the reason to select Peck and the Chamber to draft the application.
Assistance in helping to reinstate the GOSP as an International Dark Sky Park or assisting Goldendale to become an International Dark Sky Community was offered by the IDA's John Barentine directly to Mayor Canon on February 9, 2018, but never responded to. The offer seemed to be open-ended for the foreseeable future. So why would the City of Goldendale wait two years and then choose to contract with Peck, who has demonstrated opposition to lighting code education and enforcement, over the genuine interest, advocacy, and unquestionable expertise of the IDA? Apparently Goldendale thought they would be able to fool the IDA with its half-baked application from the county's lead lighting code obstructionist. However, Goldendale’s lack of sincere action about protecting the night sky is glaringly obvious – all you have to do is drive around at night. The only thing "exceptional" about Goldendale's (and Klickitat County's) night sky conservation and protection efforts is that for over 40 years they have been exceptionally inadequate.
Goldendale and the Chamber would be just as happy if they had an “amusement park” rather than an observatory – and not have to bother with public education and support of, or pesky regulations and their enforcement for, the much-needed conservation of the Observatory's natural night sky environment. Unfortunately you can’t get massive donated roller coasters or Ferris wheels, Federal construction grants, or decades of taxpayer operating funds and millions of capital improvement taxpayer dollars to foot the bill for that.
As of July 2021, no further action regarding achieving an International Dark Sky Community designation for Goldendale or surrounding Klickitat County has been initiated, and Washington State Parks – unlike almost every other state park system in the world – remains opposed to International Dark Sky Park involvement.
There is no sincere interest in a attaining a legitimate Dark Sky Community designation in Goldendale. It has been sought merely as a façade for generating tourism dollars without a real commitment to night sky conservation. The Chamber of Commerce wants the sizzle, not the steak. Former Chamber Executive Director Peck had a clear history of opposition to real efforts to protect and conserve the night sky. Moreover, the need for and importance of lighting codes and their application was apparent and promised even before the Observatory was built, and should have been widely promoted for decades, regardless of the presence or lack of an International Dark Sky Park or Community designation.
Because local political and business interests regard Goldendale Observatory merely as a "marketing tool" for exploitation to "fill up hotel rooms and restaurant spaces," they are content to ignore its real need for night sky restoration, conservation, and long-term sustainability. And with Observatory Director Carpenter they have the perfect collaborator. He overwhelmingly supports economic exploitation and is more than happy to be the center of attention, while contemptuously minimizing the importance of night sky conservation, education, and advocacy as "hippy-dippy activism" and "amateur astronomer pandering."
If you listen carefully, you can hear the amateur astronomers who built the Observatory’s telescope and purposely tried to locate it where it would have a dark night sky well into the future, turning in their graves.
“Light pollution from Goldendale, Wash. floods the sky on a cloudy night at the Goldendale Observatory State Park on Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014. The observatory, run by the Washington State Parks, is a dark sky destination for people from around the region, and is the only public observatory in the Northwest.”
Yakima Herald-Republic/Photo: Mason Trinca
In rural Colorado, a growing push to preserve dark skies as artificial light spills out of cities and towns is gaining momentum amid greater pandemic-driven focus on a long-neglected part of the natural environment.
The International Dark Sky Association on June 7 announced the designation of the Towns of Nucla and Naturita, Colorado, as an International Dark Sky Community, reflecting the outcome of a rigorous, eighteen-month nomination process. Nucla and Naturita join six other International Dark Sky Places in southwestern Colorado to form an emerging hotspot in the U.S. movement to preserve night skies.
“The news that Nucla and Naturita have joined the family of International Dark Sky Places is especially welcomed as we see western Colorado quickly becoming a national focal point for dark-skies awareness and conservation,” said IDA Executive Director Ruskin Hartley. “We congratulate both towns for setting an example that we hope others will study and emulate.”
A tale of shifting economic fortunes
Nucla and Naturita are two nearby, small towns in western Colorado, U.S., whose twin histories and evolution through time are closely intertwined. Both towns were founded in the late nineteenth century around the regional economy of agriculture, ranching and mining. The gradual and ongoing draw-down of extractive activities in the area, along with abundant public lands in this part of the western U.S. and a typically low-density, rural scale of development has led to a recognition of the value of abundant and renewable natural resources such as dark night skies.
Realizing the value of this resource, locals formed the West End Dark Sky Alliance (WEDSA) in 2020 with the mission ‘to preserve our dark sky resource and reduce light pollution through education and advocacy.’
Deb Stueber of WEDSA described what the designation meant to the towns. “These are exciting times for dark sky enthusiasts in Colorado,” Stueber enthused. “We are happy our West End communities are now recognized by IDA as one of the darkest places left on the planet, and that we appreciate and want to preserve as much of our historic, rare, and exceptional dark starry skies as we can.”
Following a lead made in Colorado
International Dark Sky Community status is awarded based on exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation of quality outdoor lighting policies, extensive public outreach and education, and the proactive support of area residents and stakeholders. Nucla and Naturita followed the example of another pair of Colorado towns, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, that achieved IDA International Dark Sky Community status in 2015.
Ed Stewart, member emeritus of the Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley, Colorado, helped shepherd the Westcliffe and Silver Cliff nomination to a successful conclusion. “During our 2014 IDA community application preparation, we never thought that our dual-town approach to certification would be a motivation for others in a similar situation of towns adjoining or close to each other,” Stewart said.
“We are glad that Naturita and Nucla are now part of the many Colorado Dark Sky Places and hope that certification brings them the rush of enthusiasm, support, and recognition that we are still experiencing over six years later.”
Sights set on an even bigger prize
Fresh off their success in Nucla and Naturita, WEDSA members already have bigger goals in mind. A result of the increasing regional interest in dark skies may be an eventual ‘Western Slope International Dark Sky Reserve,’ a complex accreditation intended to bring durable, landscape-scale protections to nights in the area. WEDSA is working with the Norwood Dark Sky Advocates (NDSA) from the nearby town of Norwood, which received its own International Dark Sky Community label in 2019.
Stueber thinks this makes good sense to the community beyond seeing the stars at night. “By adopting ‘smart’ lighting practices, residents could protect their properties and save money while enhancing their health and wellbeing as well as the health of insects and other pollinators, migrating and hunting birds, other wildlife and stock animals,” she explained “There is no downside to good lighting practices!”
Story by the INTERNATIONAL DARK-SKY ASSOCIATION
Sunriver designated as the first International Dark Sky Place in Oregon - and Oregon State Parks adds a second.
By Victoria Gill
Science correspondent, BBC News
October 29, 2020
An experiment carried out at 01:30 every morning for 10 nights has revealed the main sources of artificial light polluting the night sky.
The city of Tucson, in Arizona, US, dimmed its 14,000 streetlights over that period.
"We used a satellite to measure what fraction of the total light emissions are due to the streetlights," explained physicist Dr Christopher Kyba.
Artificial light has been shown to affect our sleep and our health.
"And late at night, when people are sleeping - that is exactly when we can save a lot of energy," Dr Kyba, who is based at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, told BBC News.
His light-from-space experiment, published in the journal Lighting Research & Technology, showed that most of the artificial light wasted - by being sent upwards into space, rather [than] illuminating a sign, street or building on Earth - does not actually come from streetlights, but from other sources.
Prof Kelsey Johnson, an astronomer from the University of Virginia, who gave a TED talk about ways to solve the light pollution problem, told BBC News: "We waste tremendous resources on light that goes out into space and doesn't do anyone any good."
Advertisements, floodlights, lit buildings, facade lighting, parking lots and sports stadia - these are the types of installations responsible for most of these light emissions, Dr Kyba explained.
"That's really important information for policy makers and light pollution activists," he said.
"This does make it more difficult to solve, because there are so many contributors. It means everyone has to get together to decide what lights need to be lit at night, and how brightly."
Wasting energy while we sleep
Because emissions come from so many sources, the exact amount of energy wasted on inefficient or unnecessary artificial light is difficult to estimate. But the International Dark Sky Association estimates that 35% of artificial light is wasted by being poorly aimed or unshielded. This equates, in the US alone, to about $3 billion per year spent on "making the sky glow".
That familiar urban glow means that most people on Earth never see a naturally dark night sky, but it also affects migrating birds, insects and other animals, by disrupting the light-dark cycle they are tuned into.
More philosophically, Prof Johnson and other astronomers argue that this wasted light destroys our connection to the stars.
"I believe this has a profound effect on our worldview," she said. "I'm heartbroken for all the children growing up today who will never experience a truly dark night sky." And according to a 2016 study, that could be true for as much as 80% of the global population.
A bit of clever lighting
One recent project with a floodlit church in Slovenia - a country that passed a law to curb increasing light levels - revealed how relatively straightforward the problem is to solve.
A lighting company re-lit a church in a way that reduced the power consumption for the light by 96% (from 1.6 kW to only 58 W). It also reduced the total waste light emission by using simple masks to shine the light just directly on the church.
"A lot of people talk about climate emergency but never talk about light pollution," said Dr Kyba. "But it's an important part. And at night, when most of us are asleep, all that electricity could be going to do other things - charging electric vehicles, for example. "It's the kind of thing that can be done with a little bit of cleverness and the will to take action."
Follow Victoria on Twitter
More on this study can be found in the IDA article.
The International Dark Sky Association
Ruskin Hartley, Executive Director, IDA
Brian Liebel, Director of Standards and Research, IES
We are delighted to announce that the Boards of Directors of IES and IDA have each unanimously adopted resolutions supporting the Five Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting.
Too often, outdoor electric lighting installations at night are over lit, left on when not needed, and are harmful to the environment. As a result, light pollution is a growing global issue that can negatively effect our environment and impact our quality of life. By joining forces, our shared goal is to prevent and reduce light pollution through the proper application of quality outdoor electric lighting.
By applying these principles, properly designed electric lighting at night can be beautiful, healthy, and functional. Projects that incorporate these principles will save energy and money, reduce light pollution, and minimize wildlife disruption.
These principles establish a high-level framework for important collaborative work ahead. IDA and IES commit to working together to:
Establish a new metric to more accurately assess the quantity of short-wavelength light in an electric light source. Research on the effect of nighttime lighting has made it clear that correlated color temperature (CCT) is an inadequate indicator of the impact of light on the environment. The lighting industry needs a new metric to support making informed decisions about the color characteristics of electrical lighting to reduce the impacts of light pollution.
Assess and update the Joint IES and IDA Model Lighting Ordinance (MLO) to make it easy for cities and municipalities to enact these principles to benefit their residents. When it was adopted in 2011, the MLO was a groundbreaking document to help municipalities incorporate decisions on lighting into their municipal ordinances. After a decade, it is time to update the MLO to bring it in line with the Five Lighting Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting, incorporate technological changes, and to make it accessible to more jurisdictions.
Develop educational materials to help municipalities, individuals, and lighting designers apply the Five Lighting Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting in their projects.
About the International Dark-Sky Association: Our volunteer advocates work in 32 countries on six continents to protect the night from light pollution and celebrate the many benefits of a dark, star-filled sky. Learn more at www.darksky.org.
About the Illuminating Engineering Society: Established in 1906, the IES is the recognized technical and educational authority on illumination. The strength of the IES is its diversified membership: engineers, architects, designers, educators, students, contractors, distributors, utility personnel, manufacturers, and scientists in 64 countries all contributing to the mission of the Society: to improve the lighted environment by bringing together those with lighting knowledge and by translating that knowledge into actions that benefit the public. The IES is a 501(c)(3) non-profit professional society. www.ies.org
Read the full press release here.
International Dark-Sky Association
John C. Barentine, Ph.D.
Director of Public Policy
Director of Communication
December 17, 2019
The Senate of Mexico unanimously endorsed legislation that classifies light pollution as a form of environmental pollution this November. The new law makes light pollution subject to regulation under existing environmental laws in the country of Mexico.
The bill, called “Decreto por el que se reforman y adicionan diversas disposiciones de la ley general del equilibrio ecológico y la protección al ambiente” (“Decree for the reform and addition of various provisions of the general law of ecological balance and the protection of the environment”), was approved by the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of the Mexican Congress) and is now set to become the official policy of Mexico.
This legislation is an historic event worldwide because it is the first instance of a country explicitly defining light pollution as an environmental pollutant. The law is also unique because it amends previously existing environmental legislation that regulates air, water, and soil quality to also set regulations for light pollution.
The law amends and expands the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection of 1988 (LGEEPA). It gives regulatory authority of light pollution to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), in coordination with the Ministry of Energy (SENER). The law tasks these ministries with “the prevention of environmental pollution caused by intrusive light.”
“It took more than three years of hard work, but we did it,” said Fernando Ávila Castro, the leader of IDA Mexico and a member of the technical staff of the Institute for Astronomy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Ensenada. The Institute’s “Oficina de la Ley del Cielo” (“Office of the Law of the Skies”) worked behind the scenes. Together with Former Chamber of Deputies member Tania Arguijo, Dr. José Franco, Zeus Valtierra, and Enrique Azures, the team influenced the lawmaking process for the benefit of protecting night skies across Mexico.
The detailed regulations will be incumbent on regional and local governments throughout Mexico, as well as on both public and private property owners. According to the Senate opinion, the law is intended “to encourage the implementation of an adequate policy to reduce light pollution and the recovery of the clarity of the [night] sky, which entails a significant reduction of up to 50% of the expenditure to produce the electricity supplied by public lighting, based on the regulation of the use of suitable luminaires.”
The new framework for regulating light pollution enables the creation of special areas where lighting limits are the most strict, such as astronomical observatories, archaeological ruins, national parks, and nature reserves. The protection of their night skies — among the darkest in Mexico — “can only be ensured through the proper application of Mexican federal laws,” said Ávila Castro.
Since LGEEPA already involves requirements that local governments in Mexico must follow, a mechanism for implementing the new law already exists. “With these enabling legislation in place, SEMARNAT will be able to enforce them, even from the beginning of the design stage of any project,” Ávila Castro explained. “A new tourist development for example? It will have to comply with these new norms or it won’t have a building permit.”
The Oficina de la Ley del Cielo is already in dialogue with the Environmental and Energy Ministries to establish the specific regulations called for in the new law, including illumination levels and limits on the correlated color temperature of light sources. Ávila Castro estimates that this process will take between one and two years to complete.
To read more about this law, visit the announcement at the Senado de la República de México. IDA congratulates the hard work of our Chapter leader, Fernando Ávila Castro, and the country of Mexico for its historical and progressive law on light pollution.
The City of Cottonwood has become the newest addition to the International Dark Sky Places Program, as an International Dark Sky Community. In an effort to continue to promote and protect our dark skies, it has been a mission of the City to obtain this designation since 2016. Working with the community as a whole, the City of Cottonwood has become the 23rd designated dark sky community in the world. The State of Arizona now accounts for 6 of those dark sky communities, with 4 of the 6 communities located in the Verde Valley. Light pollution affects the world as a whole, not only does it disrupt the natural day-night pattern but it also has negative impacts on the ecosystem, wildlife, and human health. Committing to being a dark sky community not only benefits the City but the surrounding community.
As part of Yavapai County, buildings in Cottonwood are required to ensure that outdoor lighting is compliant with dark-skies ordinances, aimed at reducing light pollution and keeping the stars visible at night. Like many communities in the county, Cottonwood has gone beyond Yavapai’s regulations to encourage even more stargazer-friendly lighting; at a city council meeting on Oct. 2, 2018 Cottonwood amended its dark-sky ordinance with stricter rules.
Cottonwood sought to become the next community in the Verde Valley to become recognized as an International Dark-Sky Community by the International Dark-Sky Association.
“I think a lot of people are drawn to Cottonwood because of the natural beauty that we have surrounding us, and a big part of that is a sky where you can see the stars at night,” Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski said. “When you come down to the city of Phoenix or any large municipal area and see the glow on the horizon, it’s not always a welcoming sign. The more we can do to keep our skies dark the more attractive the community will be. I think preserving that for the future is an important thing to do.”
The amended regulations are mostly the same as they were before in regard to private lighting, with the main addition being requirements for low-temperature ratings for outdoor lights, not exceeding 3000 lumens. Beyond that, the regulations continue Cottonwood’s rules for shielded lights of limited brightness facing downwards to prevent light pollution.
“To say that there’s going to be a big effect on residential community — it’s not at all,” Cottonwood Code Enforcement Coordinator Christina Anderson said of the changes. “Almost every single commercial property within the city limits has changed their lighting, their signage, all sorts of things in the last 10 years anyway, so they’ve already been complying with that IDA requirement for shielded lighting and the correct lumens.”
The ordinance passed by the city council does require the city itself to take more action to reach IDA compliance, with new rules for municipal buildings. The ordinance prevents any municipal building from adding new outdoor lighting at night, unless the city manager deems it necessary for public safety, in addition to seeking curfews, motion detectors, and other efforts to limit unnecessary light pollution for existing municipal lighting.
A major effect of the new ordinance is to put a timeline on bringing the city into IDA compliance within 10 years, the ordinance states in reference to government properties.
Astronomy fanatics in the Verde Valley have long pushed for more municipalities in the area to work to darken their skies and get IDA certification. They hope that when all have joined Camp Verde, Sedona and VOC, the valley could be designated as an internationally recognized dark-skies area.
“This is very important for tourism, and astronomy clubs,” Community Development Manager Berrin Nejad said. “I think Cottonwood deserves that, and that’s why with our neighbors’ movements, it was time for us to take the next step.”
Originally published by journalaz.com
In Praise of Darkness: Henry Beston on How the Beauty of Night Nourishes the Human Spirit
BY MARIA POPOVA
“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty,” wrote the Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki in his glorious 1933 love letter to darkness, enveloped in a lament about the perils of excessive illumination. It seems like, having never quite grown out of our perennial childhood fear of the dark, at some point in the twentieth century we took Carl Jung’s poetic assertion that “the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being” a little too literally and set out to illuminate darkness into nonexistence. But darkness — like silence, like solitude — belongs to that class of blessings increasingly endangered in modern life yet vitally necessary to the human spirit.
No one has captured the enchantment of darkness and its eternally reigning queen, the night, more beautifully than writer and naturalist Henry Beston (June 1, 1888–April 15, 1968), who in his 1928 classic The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod does for night what Rebecca Solnit has done for walking and Robin Wall Kimmerer for moss.
In the eight chapter, titled “Night on the Great Beach,” Beston writes:
Our fantastic civilization has fallen out of touch with many aspects of nature, and with none more completely than night. Primitive folk, gathered at a cave mouth round a fire, do not fear night; they fear, rather, the energies and creatures to whom night gives power; we of the age of the machines, having delivered ourselves of nocturnal enemies, now have a dislike of night itself. With lights and ver more lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of night back to the forests and the sea; the little villages, the crossroads even, will have none of it. Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of the night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of the stars? Having made themselves at home in a civilization obsessed with power, which explains its whole world in terms of energy, do they fear at night for their dull acquiescence and the pattern of their beliefs? Be the answer what it will, to-day’s civilization is full of people who have not the slightest notion of the character or the poetry of night, who have never even seen night. Yet to live thus, to know only artificial night, is as absurd and evil as to know only artificial day.
But Beston’s prescient admonition fell on deaf ears — nearly a century later, our reliance on this circadian artificiality has reprogrammed our internal clocks to a dangerous degree. In fact, our relationship with darkness and the poetry of night has always been complicated, shrouded in various superstitions and cultural taboos. So absurd were some of them that when trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell began teaching the first university class of women astronomers, female students were not allowed to go outside after dark. And yet here we are a century and a half later, having replaced the sociocultural obstructions with technological ones — light pollution is blocking our view of the night, cutting off our eternal supply of Ptolemy’s cosmic ambrosia.
Beston describes one particularly poetic night, made pitch-black by the embrace of a thick fog — a night unseen by most of us, and perhaps one already unseeable a century of rabid illumination later. And yet his writing alone transports us to this glorious dominion of darkness, making its magic maybe, just maybe, a little more attainable for us nightless moderns:
Night is very beautiful on this great beach. It is the true other half of the day’s tremendous wheel; no lights without meaning stab or trouble it; it is beauty, it is fulfillment, it is rest. Thin clouds float in these heavens, islands of obscurity in a splendor of space and stars: the Milky Way bridges earth and ocean… It was dark, pitch dark to my eye, yet complete darkness, I imagine, is exceedingly rare, perhaps unknown in outer nature. The nearest natural approximation to it is probably the gloom of forest country buried in the night and cloud. Dark as the night was here, there was still light on the surface of the planet. Standing on the shelving beach, with the surf breaking at my feet, I could see the endless wild uprush, slide, and withdrawal of the sea’s white rim of foam.
But Beston’s meditation on darkness and the night is ultimately an invitation rather than a lament:
Learn to reverence night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity. By day, space is one with the earth and with man — it is his sun that is shining, his clouds that are floating past; at night, space is his no more. When the great earth, abandoning day, rolls up the deeps of the heavens and the universe, a new door opens for the human spirit, and there are few so clownish that some awareness of the mystery of being does not touch them as they gaze. For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars — pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time. Fugitive though the instant be, the spirit of man is, during it, ennobled by a genuine moment of emotional dignity, and poetry makes its own both the human spirit and experience.
The Outermost House is an immensely enchanting read in its entirety, uncovering and recovering the civilization-shrouded shimmer of such beautiful phenomena as birds, the beach, midwinter, and high tide. Complement it with Georgia O’Keeffe’s equally bewitching celebration of the Southwestern sky.
Originally published on Brain Pickings
The IDA adopted new Dark Sky Park designation requirements in June 2018 that not only specified a new minimum Sky Quality Meter (SQM) reading at the zenith of 21.2 magnitudes per square arcsecond or better, but additionally required any artificial light domes on the horizon to be “dim, restricted in extent, and close to the horizon.” So far, the only agency and process that has been able to show or measure this reliably has been the National Park Service using a complex and expensive data reduction scheme and high resolution camera system to map the whole night sky at current and proposed NPS dark sky sites. The complexity and expense of this system has been a significant constraint to making valid and reliable evaluations at non-NPS sites.
Bob Yoesle (recipient of an IDA 2015 Dark Sky Defender Award) and Micheal McKeag (IDA Oregon Delegate), amateur astronomers, dark sky advocates, and members of the Rose City Astronomers in Portland Oregon, have been working on devising a methodology for standardizing the process of assessment with simpler, more readily available and less expensive equipment and methods. This is needed for ongoing assessment of the scenic impacts of light pollution in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, as well as proposed dark sky sites and communities both in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.
Mike has used a high-quality wide-angle “fisheye” lens to do whole sky DSLR imagery, combined with Uniheadron SQM readings made on an alt-azimuth computer-controlled telescope mount. Unfortunately, due to the wide field of view of the SQM device, this has proved unsatisfactory for light dome measurements along the horizon:
Until a narrower angle SQM with a field of sensitivity which will allow higher resolution and substantial enough improvements to be used in mapping horizon light domes comes along, Bob has devised and proposed a photographic methodology that directly compares light dome brightness to the brightness of the Milky Way, whose visibility is a key feature and requirement of any dark sky location.
All that is required for this methodology is a fisheye lens all-sky imaging system of good quality. But you don't need a dedicated camera system - Bob used a sturdy photo tripod, DSLR camera, and one of the least expensive fisheye lenses available. The only other requirements are a digital photo processing program such as Photshop, Paint Shop Pro, etc. that allows histogram adjustment, and a planetarium program which is able to show azimuth and altitude angles of indicator stars above the horizon.
This procedure is simple and affordable enough for amateurs astronomers and photo enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels to perform with minimal experience.
The first thing to do is to take a picture that sufficiently exposes the night sky enough to capture the Milky Way:
This image is then converted to a black and white “greyscale” image:
The image histogram is then adjusted to stretch midtones and suppress/eliminate the shadows and highlight regions of the image. This makes any light pollution much more evident and also enhances the brightness of the Milky Way to give a good set of comparison levels of brightness:
Using modified histogram settings to make adjustments to the image can highlight both the Milky Way and the extent of light pollution domes. This qualitative process requires different settings for varying exposures, yet appears to be a useful tool in extracting the true extent of artificial sky glow compared to the original image.
Depending on the dynamics of the image, a negative image can sometimes provide better contrast to make the extent of faint levels of light more evident (our eyes often work better with black stars on a white background verus the opposite):
One of the limitations of using a wide angle fisheye lens for all sky imaging is the distortion and foreshortening of features which occurs near the horizon:
Using a planetarium program such as Stellarium (a free download), one can easily judge the extent of artificial brightness along the horizon and how far such artificial brightness reaches into the sky:
A qualitative exam of light dome extent. The unlabeled arrow points to β1 Sco at the top of the three pincer stars of Scorpius, arrow 1 lies between δ and ε Oph, and arrow 2 lies between α and ε Ser. These areas represent areas similar in brightness to the Milky Way going from the brightest to the dimmest discernible areas in the image. In this case we can see the altitude above the horizon for these parts of the light dome ~ 25, 40, and 50 degrees respectively:
Around the new moon, a series of these images can be taken over a period of hours, days, or months to get a more valid sample of the site’s overall night sky quality. When combined with concurrent zenith SQM readings, the reliability of such a methodology can be readily established. Bob suggests use of a nearby Clear Sky Chart location or similar application prior to an imaging run to establish the general conditions locally under which the data and images are obtained:
The IDA has responded favorably to this methodology for future dark sky site evaluations. Dark Sky Defenders welcomes contributions and refinements others may come up with to enhance or improve upon this methodology. Please use the Contact Page to send us your input and suggestions.
Written by Ryann Richards on June 18, 2019
Photo by Mark Basarab
ST. GEORGE — Residents in Ivins are coming together to find creative solutions to light pollution.
The Ivins Night Sky Initiative was founded in January with hopes to “improve, preserve, and protect the night sky over Ivins,” according to its website.
Director Mike Scott said the organization and Ivins residents are seeking to modify an outdoor lighting ordinance due to its outdated nature. The ordinance is about 12 years old.
They are looking to reduce the color temperature of outdoor lighting to soften the “harsh white light” and reduce blue light emissions, he said.
Reducing blue light will not only decrease sky glow and light pollution, but it will also benefit the safety of the community as it will reduce glare. Scott said the change will also protect residents’ health as recent studies have found that blue light contributes to a number of adverse health effects, including greater risk of heart disease, some cancers and permanent eye damage.
While the city of Ivins waits for the proposed changes to make their way through local government, residents are making their own, temporary solutions to current light pollution concerns.
The goal of the do-it-yourself solutions is to aim the light in a more effective manner while limiting the effect that “stray light” has on the night sky, Scott said. This can be accomplished by focusing the light into a downward beam and limiting blue light.
“We’re not trying to reduce outdoor lighting, exactly,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is just make sure that it aims the light where we really want it to go.”
One resident used red Solo cups to aim the beam of light more downward and block any upward light from shooting into the sky. Eagle Rock, a subdivision with about 90 homes, changed the lights outside of garages to focus the light downward.
Scott said most outdoor lighting in the future is going to consist of LED bulbs, which are efficient and economically friendly, but LEDs include quite a bit of blue light. Ivins has been getting the best of both worlds by using LED lights with an amber filter.
“So you get rid of the harmful potential health risk and safety problems,” he said.
Ivins was cognizant of the night sky when drafting the ordinance a dozen years ago, Scott said, but the technology has changed and the city is growing almost as rapidly as St. George. He said Ivins is projected to double in size over the next 20 years.
With this in mind, the Ivins Dark Sky Initiative is looking to impact the present in order to start on the best foot for the future.
“We are going to grow,” Scott said. “We are going to need a lot more outdoor lighting, so let’s just make sure it’s the best kind of lighting we can possibly have.”
The organization now has about 25 volunteers who work to educate people about light pollution and the harmful effects of blue light. It is working with the International Dark Sky Association and is hoping to have Ivins named as a “Dark Sky Community” within the next year.
In order for Ivins to be considered for the designation the city must meet a set of requirements, including a lighting policy that covers shielded lamp posts and blue light restrictions and the opportunity for education and community outreach.
Ivins City Council will consider the lighting design and construction plans for outdoor lighting at its meeting on June 20 at 5:30 p.m. at Ivins City Hall.
St. George News