SOUTHERN UTAH’S DARK NIGHT SKY
Due to the lack of light pollution, we are fortunate here in southern Utah to be able to view natural phenomena in the skies above. Portions of Iron County remain some of the darkest and best places in the world to view the night sky. Many nighttime visitors to Cedar Breaks National Monument get to see more stars than they’ve ever seen in their lives… even when the moon is out!
CEDAR BREAKS NATIONAL MONUMENT
In March 2017, Cedar Breaks National Monument was officially designated as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, a nonprofit that works to combat unnecessary light pollution worldwide. This designation recognizes Cedar Breaks as a night sky sanctuary, the first of its kind in southwest Utah. Such recognition is timely, because places like Cedar Breaks are disappearing rapidly.
We hope that our designation as an International Dark Sky Park will inspire more people to appreciate the beauty of the night sky and take some simple actions to help protect it.
LOSING THE DARK
Less than 100 years ago, everyone could look up and see a spectacular starry night sky. Now, millions of children across the globe will never experience the Milky Way. Increased use of artificial light at night is not only impairing our view of the universe, it is adversely affecting our environment, safety, energy consumption and health.
WHAT IS LIGHT POLLUTION?
Light pollution is a side effect of industrial civilization. The fact is that much outdoor lighting used at night is inefficient, overly bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded, and, in many cases, unnecessary. This light, and the electricity used to create it, is being wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on to the actual objects and areas that people want illuminated.
The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) estimates that least 30 percent of all outdoor lighting in the U.S. alone is wasted, mostly by lights that aren’t shielded. That adds up to $3.3 billion and the release of 21 million tons of carbon dioxide per year! To offset all that carbon dioxide, we’d have to plant 875 million trees annually.
EFFECTS OF LIGHT POLLUTION
For three billion years, life on Earth existed in a rhythm of light and dark that was created solely by the illumination of the Sun, Moon and stars. Now, artificial lights overpower the darkness and our cities glow at night, disrupting the natural day-night pattern and shifting the delicate balance of our environment.
Plants and animals depend on Earth’s daily cycle of light and dark rhythm to govern life-sustaining behaviors such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators. Like most life on Earth, humans adhere to a circadian rhythm, a sleep-wake pattern governed by the day-night cycle. Artificial light at night can disrupt that cycle.
The negative effects of the loss of this inspirational natural resource might seem intangible. But a growing body of evidence links the brightening night sky directly to measurable negative impacts including:
• Increasing energy consumption • Disrupting the ecosystem and wildlife
• Harming human health • Effecting crime and safety
Light pollution affects everyone. A growing number of scientists, homeowners, environmental groups and civic leaders are taking action to restore the natural night. Each of us can implement practical solutions to combat light pollution locally, nationally and internationally.
YOU CAN HELP!
The good news is that light pollution, unlike many other forms of pollution, is reversible and each one of us can make a difference! Start by minimizing the light from your home at night:
• Only use lighting when and where it’s needed; if safety is a concern, install motion lights
• Properly shield all outdoor lights
• Keep your blinds drawn to keep light inside
• Become a citizen scientist and helping to measure light pollution
• Learn more at darksky.org. Then spread the word to your family and friends!