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Astronomers to Talk Astrotourism, Light Pollution and Night Sky Restoration at Page

Astronomers to Talk Astrotourism, Light Pollution and Night Sky Restoration at Page
July 20
14:03 2016

Join astronomers to explore the “dark side” of Page and astrotourism at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on July 26 and 27.

Dr. John Barentine, of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), and Nate Ament, of the National Park Service Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative, will speak on Tuesday, July 26 at 7 p.m., about the astrotourism phenomenon on the Colorado Plateau and the importance of limiting light pollution to preserve dark skies. The presentation will be held at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area headquarters at 691 Scenic View Drive where refreshments will be provided by the Glen Canyon Natural History Association. Then, on Wednesday July 27 at 5:30 p.m., Barentine and Ament will share resources for managing dark skies with the Page City Council at a public workshop at City Hall.

The unusually dark skies on the remote Colorado Plateau offer a “celestial sanctuary” where people can experience bright, starry, nights unlike those found in most parts of the world. The result is astrotourism, a growing phenomenon on the Colorado Plateau. According to Barentine, lighting choices by the City of Page are key to the preservation of dark skies in the region and maximizing the economic potential of astrotourism at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

“I am thrilled to be collaborating with the City of Page to manage area dark sky resources,” Barentine said. “Managing dark skies is not only a feasible goal for the City of Page, but a profitable one. The best lighting choices save starry nights without compromising public safety.”

Astrotourism boosts local economies by drawing tourists who tend to spend the night, not just in summer but at all times of the year, to experience the cosmos which is obscured by light pollution throughout much of the world. The National Park Service has noted a dramatic increase in interest and participation in stargazing programs nationwide, including at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. But, park officials also say the sky glow from the growing city of Page is becoming a source of light pollution in the area. According to Ament, this can have an unintended negative impact on tourism.

“Dark skies are a big part of our rural western character,” Ament said. “Residents and visitors want to look up and see the same starry skies as our ancestors.”

In addition to their importance to astrotourism, naturally dark skies also maintain healthy nocturnal ecosystems and human health, which can be disrupted by artificial lighting. The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted community guidance to reduce the harmful human and environmental effects of high intensity street lighting in June of 2016. According to the “World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness,” published in the journal Science Advances, light pollution is such a problem in the western hemisphere that 80 percent of North Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from where they live.

“Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is a place where a visitor can look up and see the Milky Way, maybe for the first time,” said Glen Canyon Natural History Association Director Karen Dallett. “That is something worth protecting.”

About Dr. John Barentine

John is an Arizona native and comes to IDA from the “dark side” of science — professional astronomy. He grew up in Phoenix and was involved in amateur astronomy from grade school. Later, he attended the University of Arizona beginning research at the National Optical Astronomy Observatories and National Solar Observatory headquarters in Tucson. From 2001-2006 he was on the staff of Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, serving first as an observing specialist on the Astrophysical Research Consortium 3.5-meter telescope, and then as an observer for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. He obtained a master’s degree in physics at Colorado State University and a master’s and Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. John has contributed to science in fields ranging from solar physics to galaxy evolution while helping develop hardware for ground-based and aircraft-borne astronomy. Throughout his career, he has been involved in education and outreach efforts to help increase the public understanding of science. He is the author of two books on the history of astronomy, The Lost Constellations and Uncharted Constellations. The asteroid (14505) Barentine is named in his honor.

About Nate Ament

Over the last four years with the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative, Nate Ament has served as liaison between 35+ national and state parks, and over 75 partners while fostering stewardship of night sky resources across the region. During this time, Nate has assisted 15 parks and communities in their International Dark Sky Place application process, and coordinated numerous night sky related events. Nate holds a B.S. in Environmental Science, specializing in restoration issues and water resources. As a graduate student at Colorado State University, he conducted research in invasive species ecology and remote sensing technology at the Natural Resource Ecology Lab in partnership with the USGS and NASA. Nate vividly remembers watching a brilliant fireball from high in the Andes on one of the darkest nights in his memory.

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