5 Ways to Keep the Stars at Night, Big and Bright with DarkSky Texas! By Tiara Chapman

City of Fredericksburg

Tag Archive: stars

  1. 5 Ways to Keep the Stars at Night, Big and Bright with Dark Sky Texas!

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    The Milky Way galaxy contains ~100-400 billion stars and just as many planets. The magic of the cosmos inspired the earliest forms of astronomy and navigation, and ancient farmers once used the stars as timekeepers to determine optimal planting and harvesting seasons. Our awe-inspiring night skies even inspired some of the earliest human stories and art depicted in cave paintings dating back 40,000 years to the Paleolithic era.

    But over time, as societies have become more urbanized and technologically advanced, there has been a growing disconnect from the natural world, including the cosmos. With more and more outdoor artificial light, people have fewer opportunities to engage with the natural environment, including the magic of dark skies.

    The city of Austin’s skyline at night. Image Credit: Walton-Gray Martin
    The city of Austin’s skyline at night. Image Credit: Walton-Gray Martin

    Light pollution is the collection of effects caused by excessive, inappropriate artificial outdoor lighting. It’s that hazy skyglow you see off in the distance disrupting your camping trip. It’s one of the reasons why many baby sea turtles in the Gulf fail to launch into adulthood. It’s why migratory bird deaths from window strikes are on the rise in Dallas. Light pollution is why the skies at night aren’t so big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.
    For International Dark Skies Week, we want to introduce you to one of our cosmically cool Conservation Partners helping the night sky shine: DarkSky Texas!

    DarkSky Texas promotes the use of better lighting to help restore our view of the nighttime sky while improving the safety and well-being of both people and wildlife. For more than 25 years, volunteers all over Texas have been educating, engaging, and galvanizing Texans to choose “better lights for better nights.” Their hard work has led to the successful creation of 22 Certified Dark Sky Places throughout the state, helping wildlife preserve their natural instincts and reconnecting people to the beauty of the night.

    Light pollution is a serious issue and results in major health hazards for people and wildlife. For people, excess exposure to artificial light disrupts our internal clocks. Those clocks, also known as our circadian rhythms, rely on certain amounts of darkness to tell us when to sleep, eat, or relax. Disruptions to our circadian rhythms can result in problems with hormone production, a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diminished sleep quality, or all-out insomnia, depression, anxiety, and more!

    Young man in sleepwear suffering from headache in morning Credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
    Young man in sleepwear suffering from headache in morning Credit: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

    For wildlife, the damage of light pollution can be astronomical. The glare and skyglow from artificial lights can be seen for miles causing profound impacts on an animal’s ability to hunt, feed, navigate, nest, hide from predators, breed, or just simply rest. For example, too much light can disorient migratory birds since they use the night sky to find their way to their winter and summer homes. This can lead to collision injuries from building strikes or exhaustion as they are drawn away from their migratory routes and are pulled in by the light.

    Light pollution is also a major threat to our safety and wallets! All of that skyglow and glare represents wasted light. Wasted light makes working, driving, and walking at night much more dangerous. Light that directly hits your eyes will temporarily blind you and light directed somewhere other than the target you need to see merely causes light clutter and skyglow, neither of which improves visibility.

    So, Dark Sky Texas is challenging everyone to be BOLD and make Better Outdoor Lighting Decisions. The 5 Principles of Responsible Lighting remind Texans to reevaluate their outdoor lighting to achieve optimal light solutions that work for you and nature.

    Graphic of a quote in white text on a dark purple gradient background reading, "The alternative to light pollution is not to live in darkness. We must be smart about where and how we use outdoor lights." Image credit: DarkSky Texas
    Image credit: DarkSky Texas

    To avoid wasted light, save money, and protect wildlife, be sure your outdoor lights are:
    Useful – all light should have a purpose,
    Targeted – all light should directed only where needed,
    Low-leveled – all light should be no brighter than necessary,
    Controlled – all light should only be used when necessary, use timers and sensors to help control light, and lastly,
    Warm-colored – all light should shine at 2700 kelvin or below (think Soft White, not Daylight).

    You don’t need a telescope to take a closer look at the different resources Dark Sky Texas has for communities, landowners, businesses, and students. Just visit their website, darkskytexas.org to learn how you can help ensure the stars at night stay big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. Follow them on social media for even more quick tips!

    a silhouette of hands creating a heart shape gesture along the back drop of a starry night sky. Image Credit: DarkSky Texas
    Image Credit: DarkSky Texas

    Texan by Nature’s vision is for every business and every Texan to participate in conservation. Texas can be a model of collaborative conservation for the world if we work together to protect our natural resources. Dark Sky conservation is essential to our well-being and a critical part of a healthy ecosystem. Every Texan deserves to see the Milky Way. By supporting Dark Sky initiatives like these, you can ensure that everyone catches that hundred billion-star light show every night!