• Owachomo Bridge

    Natural Bridges

    National Monument Utah

Night Sky Team

photo: Angie Richman calibrates a telescope for a night sky monitoring session
Angie Richman calibrates a telescope for a night sky monitoring session
NPS Photo by Neal Herbert
 

The National Park Service Night Sky Team works across the country to document the effects of light pollution. Monitoring is currently taking place in 30 parks, and may expand to 55 parks in the future.

The program consists of collecting numerical data over time in order to track the “health” of the resource. The amount of light pollution is measured with a camera that is capable of precisely measuring light levels. Mounted on a robotic Meade LX 200GPS telescope, the camera takes 104 images to capture the entire sky. These images are stitched together, and by subtracting the light emitted by known individual stars, researchers generate a value for night sky darkness.

The parks of southern Utah were some of the first to be visited by the Night Sky Team. While most people realize that fewer stars are visible in a city, few probably realize that even remote parks like Natural Bridges face the problem of light pollution. Preliminary data has shed light on many facts. Natural Bridges has one of the darkest night skies in this ever-brightening country.

An assessment of our own outdoor lighting is necessary to insure that the NPS is taking proper steps to protect the night sky. Lighting retrofits can be relatively easy and inexpensive and can also be accomplished on an individual basis. When a light blows out it is a good opportunity to replace the bulb with a lower intensity bulb, or change the fixture to a full cut-off fixture, which directs all the used light downward. Retrofitting outdoor lighting not only helps restore the night sky, but also is environment friendly, energy efficient, and provides more security.

2003 Night Sky Monitoring Program Summary
[2.5mb PDF, 82 pages]

Did You Know?

Tadpole Shrimp

Naturally occurring sandstone basins called “potholes” collect rain water and wind-blown sediment, forming tiny ecosystems where a fascinating collection of plants and animals live. Tadpole shrimp, fairy shrimp and many insects can be found in potholes.