Fountain Hills became the world’s 17th International Dark Sky Community in January 2018. The number has since risen to 23 such certifications by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).
The IDA has also certified 76 Dark Sky parks, 16 Dark Sky reserves, 10 Dark Sky sanctuaries, 4 Dark Sky developments of distinction and one Urban Night Sky Place. The growing number of dark sky places suggests some sort of worldwide movement aimed at stewardship of dark skies, and that is correct! The dark sky movement is a global campaign to reduce all forms of destructive light pollution.
Nearly everywhere, light pollution has crept into our environment, often so slowly that it goes unnoticed. Forms of light pollution include skyglow (night sky illumination resembling smog); harsh glare, which actually reduces good visibility; and light trespass (direct illumination of a neighbor’s property).
Reducing light pollution benefits our health and our environment. Benefits to humans from dark sky preservation include reducing energy waste, better regulation of our circadian rhythms (our biological “clock”), and improved melatonin production, a hormone associated with greater immune resistance, lower cholesterol and better functioning of several glands.
Within Earth’s ecosystems, the regular day–night cycle drives wildlife behaviors ranging from navigation, reproduction, nourishment and self-defense from predators. Indeed, a Swedish study showed that dung beetles navigate by orienting themselves relative to the Milky Way in places where it is visible. That’s real star power!
The dark sky preservation movement is promoted here by the Fountain Hills Dark Sky Association. Future letters will discuss health benefits, smart lighting, Arizona Dark Sky Places, dark sky safety and astro-tourism.
To learn more about the dark sky movement, plan to attend the third annual Fountain Hills Dark Sky Festival on March 28. See fhdarksky.com for details.