We are losing a beautiful display, and national parks are the only place to see the true nighttime skies in a world filled with artificial lights that block our eyes from adapting to the natural darkness of our universe.
A study conducted by Robert Manning of the University of Vermont, has seen to surveying visitors of the Acadia National Park, inquiring about their preference for sights unimpaired by manmade objects. Around 90% of the participants agreed that the quality of the nighttime sky is highly important, and that the ability to see the wondrous stars above should be further protected.
The cause is said to be the development of cities or other urban areas, whose lights can affect the quality of nighttime viewing from a distance up to 250 miles from national parks. That is where the challenge of a solution comes into question, because expansion can’t truly be stopped.
However, according to Manning, 99% of our world’s skies are polluted and the true spectacle of lights seen above now remains unseen to our eyes. Visitors of the parks are the only few who have the privilege of viewing the star-littered darkness that cannot be seen amidst the artificial lights of cities.
In fact, the study states that two thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their backyard, due to the increase of light pollution along the years. It emphasized the unfortunate truth that it seems to be in our nature not to properly appreciate what we have until it’s nearly lost or gone altogether.
Manning and his colleagues proposed a few fixes that might at least save the nighttimes skies for the view of park visitors. They tested participants by showing them a sequence of eight pictures of the darkened skies with varied levels of light pollution. Between the third and the fifth photos, visitors began describing the view as unacceptable.
With the help of specialists at the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, they were able to draw a connection between the threshold of what visitors find acceptable to the actual illumination in the park, in order to understand what is the ideal level.
Inside the park, the reduction of light pollution might be easier, by both removing the problem of eliminating what equipment is not definitely needed. Visitors are requested to do their part as well, by avoiding the use of artificial lights as often as possible, such as headlights or flashlights.
Outside the park, however, becomes even trickier, but it is possible with the help of the surrounding communities that could reduce their use of artificial lights as well, in order to preserve the spectacular view of the nighttime sky, unhindered by manmade objects.
Image source: darksky.org