Experiencing Dark Night Skies

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The night sky has inspired us for generations. Nighttime views and environments are among the critical park features the National Park Service (NPS) protects. Night sky protection enhances qualities of solitude and undeveloped wilderness character that animals depend on for survival, park visitors seek for connections, and many cultural-historical parks require for preservation. In this regard, the NPS recognizes a naturally dark night sky as more than a scenic canvas; it is part of a complex ecosystem that supports both natural and cultural resources.

Seven Simple Ways to Enjoy Natural Darkness

  1. Conquer your fears: Admit it. Most people are a bit uncomfortable in the dark. Try walking outside in a very dark area while keeping your flashlight in your pocket.
  2. Make a night vision friendly flashlight: By covering your flashlight with red cellophane or a red filter, you can prevent it from disrupting your night vision. Small flashlights work better than large ones.
  3. Stargaze: Spend time looking through telescopes and learning about the cosmos with your local science center, astronomy club, or park ranger.
  4. Go for a moonlit hike: The full moon provides ample light to see in most places. Let your eyes fully adjust. Be safe. A full moon hike will be a memorable experience.
  5. Awaken your nocturnal senses: Find a comfortable spot and look around. Allow your eyes 20 minutes to adjust, and you may be surprised how well you can see by starlight. Do objects appear further? Listen. Do sounds seem louder at night?
  6. Watch nocturnal wildlife: Many animals live their “days” at night. Look for nocturnal wildlife such as owls, bats, deer, bobcats, or fireflies.
  7. Be inspired: The night sky has been an inspiration for myth, literature, art, scientific discovery, and religion. Find your own way to connect with humankind’s celestial companion. Revel in its beauty and wonder, and most of all— be inspired! Night Sky Program Protecting Dark Night Skies All living things benefit from natural darkness.

The night sky is everyone’s heritage, but light pollution is rapidly eroding the unspoiled view of the stars. Replacing poor quality outdoor lights with modern, efficient fixtures is not only good for the environment, but also saves energy and money while improving safety and security. Shielding lights and directing them downward reduces unwanted glare and returns the beautiful night.


Five Simple Ways You Can Protect the Night

  1. Enjoy the night: Ultimately, we will protect only what we love and cherish.
  2. Shield your lights: Several types of full cut-off light fixtures are now available for home, business, and municipal use. Existing lights can also be adjusted to point downward or retrofitted with simple metal shrouds.
  3. Use light only when you need it: Use motion sensors to turn lights on and off as needed. This costs less money, improves security, and reduces light pollution. Use timers for lights that are needed only in the evening or early morning.
  4. Use less light: An efficient, shielded light fixture can use a smaller wattage bulb and still be effective. Even a 25 or 40 watt incandescent bulb, or a 9 watt compact fluorescent, is enough to light a porch or driveway.
  5. Talk to your neighbors: Share your appreciation of the night and ways to protect it with your family, friends, neighbors, and community leaders. Encourage them to make the night a better place for your community and nearby parks.

Last updated: April 27, 2022

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