SOUTHERN UTAH’S NIGHT SKIES/STAR GAZING
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.
If you are inspired to explore the beauty of the night sky and the wonderful world that comes alive, here are some ideas to make your personal star party memorable:
When you head out at night to stargaze be prepared for a cool night. Let your eyes adjust to the wonders above.
Look for a place that lacks a lot of artificial light, like a city park or open field. Find the Big Dipper. The last two stars in the cup of the Big Dipper point to the North Star, which is just a bit dimmer than the individual stars in the Big Dipper.
To find more constellations download a stargazing app like SkyView©, Night Sky© or Pocket Universe©. You can pick up Constellation Maps from the Cedar City Visitor Center, located at 581 N Main St, or download the PDF constellation maps here: Year Round Constellations, Spring Constellations, Summer Constellations, Autumn Constellations.
To help navigate at night without compromising your night vision, make a red flashlight. Use red paper or cellophane to cover a white flashlight.
Attend a Star Party at Cedar Breaks National Monument (www.nps.gov/cebr) or with the Southern Utah Space Foundation (www.SUSF.org). There you can find amateur astronomers and experts sharing views through their telescopes.
Check out a telescope! Just like a book, you can check out a high-quality telescope from the Cedar City Library located at 303 North 100 East.
In the Forest
Look for the Milky Way stretching across the night sky. What looks like a faint cloud is actually the light from millions and millions of distant stars. The Milky Way is our home galaxy and is best seen in summer and fall evening skies.
If the full moon is up, the Milky Way will be hard to see. Try going for a night hike instead! Let your eyes adjust to the moonlight and keep your flashlight turned off (but available for safety if needed) or use the red flashlight you made.
In a National Park
Camp under the stars. Watch the stars and planets move across the night sky.
National parks are great places to get to know the animals that are nocturnal—wildlife that is awake at night and asleep during the day. Sit quietly and listen for these creatures.
Many national parks, including Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon and Great Basin offer night sky programs from star parties to full moon walks with rangers.
To learn more about the night sky, upcoming astronomy events, stargazing activities and simple things you can do to protect the night sky for future generations, go to these websites:
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!