Starry Skies Celebrated With Week-Long Event

Baihly Warfield
September 21, 2017 10:12 PM

The sky gets dark every night, but how often do we notice it? 

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Celebrating the night sky is the focus of a week of events that wraps up Saturday. Thursday, an all-day seminar featured a handful of speakers with various areas of expertise pertaining to the night sky. 

Cindy Hakala, president of Starry Skies Lake Superior, a chapter of the International Dark Sky Association, helped put on the event for the first time. 

"There's just so many questions that folks have about what light pollution is, all the different technical aspects of lighting at night, what they can do, questions about how they can make nights safer while still protecting our starry skies for us to see," Hakala said. 

Hakala said the problem isn't necessarily with artificial lights in general, but with where they are spraying the light. 

"Protecting our night skies to us means pointing our lights downward on the ground where we need them so that we can see what we're doing and be safe," Hakala said. 

She said the people in attendance were city planners and administrators, lighting professionals and curious citizens. 

Matthew Moses is a professional photographer who has seen firsthand the impact of light pollution. 

"I notice it at Gooseberry," Moses said. "I can see the power plant now from Silver Bay, I can see the lights. I stand in Gooseberry and look south, and I can see the lights from Two Harbors."

He typically uses long exposure to get shots of the Milky Way and the northern lights. 

"In long exposures, all that sky glow, the effect of the lights that are pointing up or not shielded, makes it harder for the stars to stand out," Moses said. 

Moses said he hopes cities will put more effort into pointing those lights downward and paying attention to the dark night sky. 

UMD Planetarium Program Director Jim Rock jumped on board as soon as he got the call about the seminar. 

"Sky is like a father, earth is like a mother," Rock said. 

He presented on indigenous calculations about history and the cosmos. 

"Really, we all stand beneath that black buffalo. You might know that one as Orion," Rock said. "So the three belt stars of Orion are the three backbone stars of that buffalo."

He hopes they bring the conference back in the future. 

"How can we change our lighting? How can we get outside and know those star places that give us our identity?" Rock asked. "Especially from a cultural perspective to know who we are, where we are and when we are."

There are two events left in Celebrate the Night Sky Week, one at the UMD Planetarium Friday night and a star party Saturday night at Cedar Lounge in Superior. For more information, click here


Baihly Warfield

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