April 15-22 is International Dark Sky Week in Alamosa
On Wednesday, April 5, Alamosa City Council encouraged Alamosa residents to learn about the benefits of the night sky to our community by declaring April 15-22 International Dark Sky Week.
International Dark Sky Week is an event traditionally held in April. Residents worldwide are invited to turn off outdoor lights and enjoy the beauty the night sky offers. The proclamation was requested by San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLV GO!), on behalf of the Sangre de Cristo Dark Sky Coalition.
The coalition, consisting of nonprofit organizations, land management agencies, and municipal and county jurisdictions, is working together toward the shared vision of night sky preservation. For the past several years, the coalition has been working to establish the Sangre de Cristo International Dark Sky Reserve, with goals to improve public health and safety, protect wildlife, encourage astro-tourism, and to preserve the region’s unique rural character and quality of life.
The San Luis Valley is treasured by residents and visitors alike for its dark night skies. It is becoming more challenging for people to experience the night as urban expansion and increased light pollution obscure our vision of the sky above.
A 2016 study for Science Advances, an international team of researchers, created a detailed atlas of light pollution around the world. It estimates that the Milky Way is no longer visible to one third of humanity — including 60 percent of Europeans and 80 percent of Americans. That is why light pollution is a growing concern.
This past year, Dani Robben, community connections coordinator for SLV GO!, convened a local dark sky working group in Alamosa to help raise awareness about light pollution and to engage the community in dark sky education and outreach.
In a recent community survey, 86 percent of respondents supported the coalition’s efforts to establish an International Dark Sky Reserve. Those who would maybe support it, or currently did not, stated they needed more information about new dark sky regulations and how they would affect residents, and also expressed concerns about safety and crime.
According to Robben, “Research tells us that there is no scientific evidence that says ‘more lighting is better.’”
The dark sky working group and coalition members are working to improve their communications and messaging to answer community concerns and gain support for dark skies. As Robben noted, “A dark sky does not necessarily mean a dark ground. Dark sky-friendly lighting provides targeted lighting toward the ground where it’s needed, rather than upward into the sky, resulting in wasted energy and light pollution.”
To learn more about dark skies during International Dark Sky Week, go to SLV GO!’s website.
SLV GO! is currently hosting its 3rd Annual Dark Sky Photo Contest to celebrate International Dark Sky Week and to raise awareness about light pollution. One small, but very important, requirement for Dark Sky Reserve certification is to substantiate the quality of the region’s dark skies through imagery. For contest rules and guidelines, go to www.slvgo.com/photocontest/.
For other numerous dark sky events happening across the state, visit DarkSkyColorado.org.