One of the rewards of camping in wilderness is the view of a pristine night sky. A canopy of stars is visible from horizon to horizon on every clear night at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Over 11,000 stars and the Milky Way are easily seen here. To gaze at such a dazzling array can both humble us, as we recognize our insignificance, and inspire us as we identify with something larger than ourselves. The regular, apparent movement of the stars and planets gave the ancients the impression of an eternal order constantly turning on itself. One of the best ways to participate in that order is to look for constelations, planets, and galaxies. Weekly stargazing features can be found through the McDonald Observatory.
Light pollution (upward directed light) from urban and suburban areas can impact the pristine night skies to be found over national parks in the West. Upward directed light is wasted energy and costly. Several lights are now available to provide full cutoff features and direct their light to the ground where it is needed. On older types of light fixtures light escapes to the sides and up where it cannot be used, and actually worsens night vision by creating glare. The National Park Service is retrofitted its lighting to help protect the night sky and has scientists monitoring light pollution levels at several parks across the country. For more information on the National Park Service's efforts to preserve the natural lightscape visit the Natural Lightscapes overview page.