One of the primary goals of an International Dark Sky Place is to encourage communities and protected areas to become environmental leaders by communicating the importance of dark skies to the general public and providing an example of what is possible with proper stewardship. Depending on the location, resources, experience, and knowledge of staff and volunteers, International Dark Sky Places are committed to providing various types of engaging outreach and education every year. These diverse events incorporate various values, such as astronomy, wildlife, energy efficiency, safety, and human health. However, as we saw over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to adapt to keep the dark-sky initiative going. Despite this novel disturbance, a review of nearly 150 International Dark Sky Place 2020-2021 Annual Reports revealed spectacular examples of creativity and persistence. As we close out our review cycle and reflect on the work of our Program advocates, it is clear that the dark-sky initiative is alive and well despite the significant worldly challenges that we all face. With the help of our advocates’ diligence and perseverance, we are starting to reframe the way we are approaching the Program to increase its global reach and impact, such as incorporating our holistic Values-Centered Approach, as well as enhancing our vision through the inspiration of our advocates and International Dark Sky Place candidates.
Annual Reports for all certified Places are available through the International Dark Sky Places main page. While it is impossible to publicize all of their hard work in a short blog, we can showcase a selection of our advocates’ work that we feel exemplifies the goals and mission of the Program, as well as embodies the core values of IDA and the global dark-sky movement.
Follow the links below to learn more about these sites and discover creative ways to celebrate, support, and protect our dark skies.
Interpretation – Presentation of information to the public in creative and engaging ways:
Snowdonia National Park (Wales) – Advocates launched a mobile observatory that offers easy-to-use Celestron telescopes and binoculars, camping mats, bat recorders, moth traps, and more. This observatory makes it easy to reach a wide audience. 2021 Annual Report.
Exmoor National Park (England) – The Exmoor National Park Authority developed a 2-mile-long Dark Sky Discovery Trail in rural Exmoor. The trail takes visitors on a safe nighttime adventure with 360-degree views and educational waysides. 2021 Annual Report.
Westhavelland (Germany) – Advocates developed glow-in-the-dark information board prototypes to be installed at a public observation place showing star maps, observing hints, polar star finder, and information about the Reserve. 2021 Annual Report.
Pic du Midi (France) – Pic du Midi advocates are developing the Windows to the Universe exhibit to publicly interpret the night sky at sites throughout the region. Each developed site will allow the public to discover the Reserve and the potential for a natural tourism experience across the landscape. 2021 Annual Report.
Gabriela Mistral (Chile) – The Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy Observatory (AURA) Communications department in Chile conducts activities aimed at promoting actions to mitigate the impact of light pollution in our cities and natural environment. This is done through online events, talks, and campaigns, such as Globe at Night, AstroDay Chile, Viaje al Universo, and the “Envivo Desde [email protected]” on Youtube. 2021 Annual Report.
Borrego Springs, California (U.S.) – The weekly Farmer’s Market is the Coalition’s main outreach to the community. For 14 weeks in the winter and spring, a display is set up from 8 a.m. until noon. The exhibit attracts visitors and residents curious to learn more about good outdoor lighting, see samples of recommended fixtures, ask questions about their specific property, check on upcoming stargazing events, and find out more about what it means to be a Dark Sky Community. 2021 Annual Report.
Outreach and Education/Training – Finding common ground through learning:
Brecon Beacons (Wales), Cranborne Chase (England), Kerry (Ireland) – These Places hosted multiple successful virtual and mixed in-person/virtual astronomy and dark-sky advocacy events to help raise awareness about light pollution and encourage involvement in dark-sky conservation. Brecons 2021 Annual Report, Cranborne 2021 Annual Report, Kerry 2021 Annual Report.
Alpes Azur Mercantour (France) – A socio-professional training cycle was organized to facilitate the development of dark-sky-oriented actions targeted toward visitors and residents alike. Topics ranged from astronomy, nighttime biodiversity, light pollution, to public lighting. 2021 Annual Report.
Central Idaho (U.S.) – Steve Pauley, IDA advocate, and Travis Longcore, PhD, Associate Professor, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES), led a student practicum to evaluate light pollution. Students gathered data and shared a project update at the IoES public forum. 2021 Annual Report.
Cévennes National Park (France) – Park agents helped school teachers develop environmental projects, and the theme this year was night. Students gave presentations on dark-sky friendly lighting as a way to help preserve biodiversity and the stars. 2021 Annual Report.
Voyageurs National Park (U.S.) – In 2020, Voyageurs Conservancy piloted its first live dark-sky virtual classroom lessons including the impacts of light pollution on wildlife and ways to protect our starry skies. To encourage social and emotional learning, elementary students were encouraged to explore their own connection to the night sky and learn about the diverse cultural stories of constellations. 2021 Annual Report.
Lighting Retrofits and Projects – Improving quality of life through good lighting practices:
Mont-Megantic (Québec) – Seven municipalities changed over 1,000 public lights to Amber LED fixtures that emit 0% uplight and less than 1% blue wavelengths. For privately-owned lighting, the Reserve created the Objective Starry Sky project that includes eco-lighting consulting services, inventories of existing exterior lighting, regulation conformity assessments, and a proposal of replacement solutions and promoting collaboration among corporate citizens. 2021 Annual Report.
Fountain Hills, Arizona (U.S.) – Volunteers tested and applied paint to reflective surfaces on 288 bollards in a public park, effectively reducing glare and upward light by 90%. Lead volunteer Ted Blank was recognized for his work by receiving a Dark Sky Defender distinction. 2021 Annual Report.
Aoraki Mackenzie (New Zealand), Cranborne Chase (England), and Wimberley Valley, Texas (U.S.) – These Places promote ‘Dark Sky Business’ accreditation programs to encourage voluntary participation in adopting dark-sky and community-friendly lighting. Aoraki Mackenzie 2021 Annual Report, Cranborne Chase 2021 Annual Report, Wimberley Valley 2021 Annual Report
Flagstaff, Arizona (U.S.) – The majority of the exterior illumination at the Flagstaff Airport and City Hall have been retrofitted or replaced with narrow-spectrum amber LEDs. The Dark Sky Compliance Specialist, working in conjunction with City Facilities, also developed a replace and retrofit plan for City fire stations. 2021 Annual Report.
Public Policy and Community Relations – Engagement to benefit everyone:
Galloway Forest Park (Scotland) – The Stay the Night initiative safely accommodated self-contained campervans and motorhomes for travelers and provided dark-sky enjoyment opportunities, while relieving pressure on community resources and bringing in revenue during the height of the pandemic. 2021 Annual Report.
Wimberley Valley, Texas (U.S.) and Cottonwood, Arizona (U.S.) – Advocates issued flyers to utility providers and city officials providing reminders and information about how to maximize outdoor lighting compliance with dark-sky friendly practices. Wimberly 2021 Annual Report, Cottonwood 2021 Annual Report.
Mayo Dark Sky Park (Ireland) – A five-year development plan for Mayo Dark Sky Park is currently in progress with key stakeholders from National Parks and Wildlife, Fáilte Ireland Tourism, and Mayo County Council. This partnership allows the Park to guide quality lighting efforts, such as developing a County Development Plan and retrofitting lighting on the national secondary route (N59) surrounding the Park, effectively reducing wasted light. 2021 Annual Report.
South Downs National Park and Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water and Forest Park (England) – Following a consultation in which over 170 academics, legal professionals, and national park authorities participated, the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dark Skies published its much anticipated ‘Ten Dark Sky Policies for the Government’ in 2021. It sets out the major causes of growing light pollution in the UK which threatens dark sky preservation and advocates for policy solutions. South Downs 2021 Annual Report, Northumberland 2021 Annual Report.
Sky Quality and Community Science – Tracking change and gaining knowledge:
River Murray (Australia) – Reserve advocates move to support Professor Zoltán Kolláth’s proposal to develop dark-sky data repositories and establish consistent data collection protocols for research. The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the International Astronomical Union will publish their Recommendations to Keep Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society, which contains his proposal. 2021 Annual Report.
Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (U.S.) – Staff developed a website that presents the Park’s sky quality data to the public. They also created an interactive display about their sky quality and good lighting practices. 2021 Annual Report.
Eifel National Park (Germany) – Advocates developed the Eifel by Night project to train volunteers to become nighttime tour guides to educate the public about healthy nocturnal environments. 2021 Annual Report.
Fulda (Germany) – Advocates held Dark Sky City tours and are experimenting extensively with adaptive community lighting. They have installed Telescope Encoder and Sky Sensor (TESS) devices to monitor sky brightness at sites in Fulda. 2021 Annual Report.
Environment and Wildlife Protection – Protecting natural resources for all:
Valley de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (U.S.) – Advocates consulted with the City of Albuquerque on a Climate Action Plan and worked with the city’s sustainability office on dark-sky lighting ideas. They also consulted with Bernalillo County and the local government to include dark-sky friendly lighting in their planning. 2021 Annual Report.
Rhön (Germany) – German Bundestag passed the Insect Diversity Protection Act intending to reduce light pollution. Reserve advocates evaluated numerous studies on the effect of artificial light on insects and have published their recommendations. 2021 Annual Report.
Alpes Azur Mercantour (France) – Events throughout the Reserve focused on bats and other nocturnal species to raise awareness about the impact of light pollution on wildlife. 2021 Annual Report.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (U.S.) – U.S. Forest Service staff created a ‘Dark Sky Etiquette’ flyer to encourage visitors to be respectful of the nocturnal environment when stargazing. 2021 Annual Report.
Kozushima Island (Japan) – By retrofitting 100% of the public lighting in Kozushima Village with IDA’s Fixture Seal of Approval fixtures, the island improved critical nesting habitat for endangered sea turtle species and allowed nesting to occur for the first time in nearly a decade. 2021 Annual Report.
Art and Culture – Inspiration through exploration, creativity, and heritage:
Aotea / Great Barrier Reef (New Zealand) – Motairehe Marae organized a successful Matariki night with speakers and traditional food. Matariki celebrations take place in mid-winter and mark the start of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar. 2021 Annual Report.
Thunder Mountain Pootseev Nightsky (U.S.) – For the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, blending their cultural beliefs with dark skies goes hand in hand. The tribe’s goal is to bring back nighttime winter stories not only about their night skies but stories that have not been told for many generations. 2021 Annual Report.
Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, Colorado (U.S.) – Advocates hosted a school art contest where winners were showcased in the local paper as half-page color ads. 2021 Annual Report.
Cherry Springs State Park (U.S.) – Curt Weinhold, a PA Wilds Juried Artisan, hosted public astrophotography workshops that focused on the basics of nocturnal landscape photography using DSLR cameras. 2021 Annual Report.
Capitol Reef National Park (U.S.) – Capitol Reef began an Artist in Residence (AiR) program in 2017. David Hunter served as the 2021-night sky photographer artist using his craft to promote stewardship of the land and awareness of its cultural and natural history. 2021 Annual Report.
There is no single way to be a successful advocate. As our annual reviews remind us, it takes passion, creativity, and tenacity to influence people and affect lasting change. Our advocates do it all – everything from hosting engaging outreach events to developing effective outdoor lighting policies for growing communities. IDA sends a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of our hard-working dark-sky advocates for another year of incredible work!
We hope their work inspires you as much as it does us! If you feel as energized as we are to connect with people around the world and promote the protection of dark skies and the nocturnal environment, make sure to join our Dark Sky Network or support IDA and our Dark Sky Places Program by becoming a member.