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

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Image: Woody Welch
The subtle lighting inside the park

International Dark Sky Parks are islands of peaceful darkness in a distracting sea of noisy lights. Moreover, low humidity, clear skies and isolation from urban centers make Big Bend National Park an ideal location.

Starting three years ago, the Big Bend National Park lighting project has seen lights in the park refitted for maximum efficiency. Cutoff fixtures and LEDs have also been introduced. And the project has resulted in darker skies and the added bonus of a 90 to 98 percent decrease in energy costs. Now if that’s not an incentive for more dark sky-friendly lighting, we don’t know what is!

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Image: Woody Welch
An incredible view of the Milky Way

According to The IDA, skies over the Big Bend National Park are now the darkest in the contiguous US region. On a clear night, it’s estimated that around 2,000 stars can be seen without binoculars or telescopes, and the Milky Way leaves a glittering white trail across the sky that’s almost unrecognizable to those accustomed to city nights. Occasionally, air pollution drifts into the park from nearby cities, but the effect is reduced during the winter months – making it the ideal time to visit the park.

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