Lightscape / Night Sky
The quality of the night sky (its relative darkness) throughout the United States, and the World for that matter, has come under siege. The widespread and rapid rate of development and the associated installation of lights, without thought to the impact those lights have on the night sky is lighting the night sky worldwide. Lighting associated with advertising, building and street illumination, and grounds security all contribute to what is referred to as “light pollution.”
One estimate indicates that about 30 percent of all light generated in the United States is wasted; costing billions of dollars. Outdoor lights provide many benefits but improved consideration of night sky concerns in their design and application would be highly beneficial in reducing light pollution and the associated production of unneeded energy.
In addition to interfering with our ability to see celestial bodies and astronomical events, light pollution has a detrimental environmental impact. Some bird species depend on stars for navigation. Light pollution interferes with their travels. Some believe that declines in moth populations are linked to attraction to lights and subsequent death.
The National Park Service is concerned about our contribution to light pollution and has set policy that seeks to reduce or eliminate the adverse impacts of light pollution. At Big South Fork, park staff members are working to reduce in-park light pollution.
Since the early 1990s, park staff and volunteers with the Knoxville Astronomy Club have hosted astronomy programs in the dark night skies of the Bandy Creek area.