Preserving Voyageurs National Park’s Starry Skies

Photo by Robert Yone

Photo by Robert Yone

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

Donate today to support this effort!

Learn more about the park’s efforts in this radio interview or check out the info below.

Light Pollution

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 wildlife

  • Wastes money

  • 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:

A sky quality meter (SQM), used to measure just how dark the night sky is. Photo by Ashley Wilson

A sky quality meter (SQM), used to measure just how dark the night sky is. Photo by Ashley Wilson

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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

Learn More

Dark Sky Efforts Underway at Voyageurs National Park (radio interview)

Banner photo: Bruce McKee

An image of the sky from Kettle Falls, taken with a special camera and processed to show sky brightness (sky luminance). You can see a little bit of light pollution coming from International Falls and Fort Frances, but otherwise the sky is amazingly dark! Photo by Cynthia Lapp,  Starry Skies Lake Superior IDA

An image of the sky from Kettle Falls, taken with a special camera and processed to show sky brightness (sky luminance). You can see a little bit of light pollution coming from International Falls and Fort Frances, but otherwise the sky is amazingly dark! Photo by Cynthia Lapp, Starry Skies Lake Superior IDA