Wasatch Environmental Update; Dark Skies – for Seeing the Stars

Wasatch Env Update img

Wasatch Environmental Update for May 15, 2015

by John Worlock, Member of the Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons

“Dark Skies – for Seeing the Stars”


Just as there are some who don’t believe in global warming, there are some who don’t believe in gravity and the heliocentric theory of the local universe. Perhaps some of those would be convinced if ever they caught sight of the Milky Way. It’s our edge-on view of our local galaxy, where our sun is situated in one of the radial arms, itself orbiting about the galaxy center.

But just hold on! Who among us has actually seen our galaxy? We live here in the Salt Lake Valley, bathed in the nighttime light of thousands of electric lamps – street lights and porch lights – giving us the illusion of safety. That light bounces off the nighttime sky and obscures our vision of the stars, so that we witness only the brightest. We occasionally see a recognizable constellation, but what’s evident is only a small fraction of the stars potentially visible from a location that is far from nighttime illumination. Some of those special places are officially recognized as International Dark Sky Places.

Three decades ago, the International Dark Sky Association was formed to “preserve and protect the night time environment and our heritage of dark skies…..” end quote.

As of 2016, internationally there are at least 8 Dark Sky Reserves, 21 Dark Sky Parks and 11 Dark Sky Communities. Alas, Salt Lake City is not a candidate to be so recognized.

Perhaps a drive up to the top of Emigration Canyon would be rewarding. But for the true Dark Skies Experience, we recommend the Great Basin National Park, which has recently been officially recognized for the clarity and the darkness of its skies.

It’s a bit of an excursion, but Great Basin offers not only Dark nighttime skies but a variety of ranger-led astronomy programs throughout the summer. There’s camping, of course, and lots of mountain trails for daytime activities, along with its famous Lehman Caves and its 11-thousand foot Wheeler Peak.

So there it sits, inviting you to enjoy the heavens in its Dark Skies. Since it is not famous like the Big Five overcrowded national parks in Utah, you can go there and enjoy day-time and night-time nature at your leisure.

Think about it! Really dark skies!

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