A Truly Dark Sky
August 09, 2012
On a recent clear night, I gazed up toward the darkened sky… no stars? A few dots faintly came into focus, but only when I had the opportunity to sit and spend a few moments of focused searching was I able to locate the Big Dipper. I looked to the right for Cassiopeia and to the left for the Summer Triangle, but neither could be found. I was sitting not along the St. Croix River, but visiting a theme park in Orlando, Florida. How can one wish upon a star when the stars can barely be found?
The Milky Way, an easy to find and broad paint stroke of light that arcs over the sky, cannot be seen by two-thirds of Americans. Outdoor lighting has altered the natural pattern of darkness, affecting not only stargazing but also wildlife. Many animals rely on patterns of light and dark for navigation, hiding from predators, feeding, and other behaviors. An abundance of artificial lighting causes disruption in these natural patterns.
For the upcoming Perseid meteor shower, one of the best of the year which peaks on August 12, how far must one travel away from Orlando or any major city in order to see this heavenly show? What will you do to ensure better viewing opportunities for adults and youth gathered to watch this annual celestial event?
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Did You Know?
Before the invention of refrigerators, people harvested ice from rivers and lakes in the winter and stored the ice, covered in sawdust, in buildings. An ice house, storing ice from the river, once stood near the site of the park headquarters for St. Croix NSR, in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.