The Importance of a Dark Sky

Scientific research has found that 99% of the continental United States experience some amount of light pollution. In addition, nearly 80% of people in North America cannot see the Milky Way at night. Light pollution, or the brightening of our night sky by artificial light, restricts the number of stars observed during clear nights. Even out in the country, where I can still see the Milky Way’s river of stars, I have to position myself so that the lights from nearby homes, streetlights and the “sky glow” from a nearby city do not obscure the view.

Light pollution is not just a concern for those of us that like to look at the stars. Many nocturnal animals in the forest and fields around me depend on, and are adapted to, the darkness in which they are active. Scientists have begun to study the effects that unnatural light has on these animals. Thousands of nighttime migrating birds are disoriented by artificial light. Sea turtle hatchlings can be attracted to artificial light sources instead of moon reflections on waves as they are traveling back to the sea.

The Wilderness Center wants to encourage the discovery of the nighttime natural environment. Already visitors can view the stars during the first Friday of the month at a Star Watch. Historically, The Wilderness Center trails are closed to the public from dusk to dawn each day. Now visitors can walk the Pond/Lake trail on any Friday from dusk to 1:00 am. This year we are also adding more naturalist-led night hikes to allow visitors to learn about nocturnal animal adaptations and experience the night.

Experience the night and all it has to offer! Check out the TWC program guide or website for a schedule of our evening activities. Come to a Star Watch on the first Friday of the month or come on any Friday evening to walk the pond trail and learn to enjoy and appreciate a dark sky. Information regarding the importance of a dark nighttime sky and what you can do to improve it can be found on the website of the International Dark-Sky Association at darksky.org.

Lynda Price
Education Program Manager


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