Preserving Voyageurs National Park’s Starry Skies
To ensure that our area’s amazing night skies are preserved unimpaired for generations to come, Voyageurs National Park is applying for Dark Sky Park certification from the International Dark-Sky Association. This certification does not carry any legal or regulatory authority, but it affirms the park's commitment to using sustainable lighting and public education to reduce light pollution and protect the night sky.
In 2020, VNPA and the park will officially launch our joint Dark Sky Initiative. Through this initiative, we will:
Secure Dark Sky Park certification by end of 2020
Develop and expand Night Sky community education programs
Develop and implement a business engagement plan to preserve area darkness
Learn more about the park’s efforts in this radio interview or check out the info below.
Light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light. This light doesn't just impede our view of the stars, it is also detrimental to the environment, wildlife, and human health. Excess artificial light:
Harms sleep quality and other health factors
Wastes energy, increasing greenhouse gas emissions
Disconnects us from our cultural heritage
Requirements for Becoming a Dark Sky Park
The International Dark-Sky Association has a number of guidelines for becoming certified as a Dark Sky Park. Here are a few of the major ones:
The park needs to have sufficiently dark skies. From a purely visual standpoint, this means that you need to be able to easily see the Milky Way. From a more technical standpoint, the luminance of the sky needs to be at least 21.2 magnitudes per square arcsecond (22.0 is the darkest possible sky). This can be measured with a sky quality meter (SQM). In July 2019, when we helped take some of these measurements, the park’s skies were regularly hitting much higher values!
The park must create a light management plan and bring its light fixtures into compliance with that plan. In most cases, this means that lights are fully shielded, light only what they need to light, and minimize the amount of extra light emitted. 2/3 of all outdoor light fixtures in the park must be in compliance by the time of the application, 90% within 5 years of designation, and 100% within 10 years.
The park must commit to public education on the importance of dark skies. This means that the park will host several yearly outreach programs and create public displays and signage that focus on the importance of dark skies.
You Can Help!
No matter where you live, you can help reduce light pollution. Here are some easy-to-implement suggestions from the International Dark-Sky Association:
Light only what you need
Use energy efficient bulbs and only as bright as you need
Shield lights and direct them down
Only use light when you need it
Choose warm white light bulbs
Encourage your neighbors to do the same
Dark Sky Efforts Underway at Voyageurs National Park (radio interview)
Banner photo: Bruce McKee