Dark Sky Parks: Reclaiming the Stars from the Clutches of Light Pollution

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Image: Woody Welch
The Milky Way is clearly visible above Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Looking up into the night and seeing a sky full of twinkling stars is something we all take for granted – in rural locations, at least. The problem is that nowadays, streetlights, neon signs and the brightly lit buildings of towns and cities have made seeing much more than a handful of stars a luxury. That’s where Dark Sky Parks like Texas’ Big Bend National Park come in.


Image: Woody Welch
The impressive McDonald Observatory

Founded in 1988, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is a US-based organization determined to prevent our starry skies from being lost to light pollution. As well as educating the public about over-lighting, the IDA has also designated a number of areas Dark Sky Places for their “exceptional commitment to and success in implementing the ideals of dark sky preservation and restoration.” In the past seven years, ten Dark Sky Parks have been opened around the world, and Dark Sky Reserves and Dark Sky Communities have also been established.

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Image: Woody Welch
Astronomer and dark sky advocate Bill Wren

In February 2012, Big Bend National Park joined the list of International Dark Sky Parks. “This feat was accomplished in no small part by advocate and ambassador of the dark sky movement, Bill Wren,” says photographer Woody Welch, who took these photographs of the park and its observatory. “Wren, an astronomer at McDonald Observatory, works tirelessly educating businesses, officials and individuals about the preservation of our skies,” adds Welch.

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