Michigan Hopes "Dark Skies" Lure Visitors

May 24, 2019

Observing the moon at the KAS Owl Observatory at the Kalamazoo Nature Center in 2015
Credit Andy Robins / WMUK

The state’s tourism agency, Pure Michigan, has started a “Dark Skies” campaign to draw more visitors highlighting several sites in Michigan where the night sky really is dark.


The campaign includes a 30-second commercial that will be shown in some movie theatres until mid-May. It focuses on dark sky sites like the Headlands near Traverse City, the Alpena area, and others. They are places that have remained relatively untouched by light pollution.

“The night sky is our birthright. It’s something we should be able to enjoy from anywhere, but unfortunately two- thirds of the world’s population can no longer see the Milky Way because of ambient light, from man-made light sources,” Richard Bell, the president of the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society says.

 

Light pollution has become a major problem for professional and amateur astronomers in recent years. The effects of light pollution are spreading around the world. Bright light created by humans puts a haze over the night sky, making it harder, and sometimes impossible, to study and enjoy the stars and the planets. But Bell says there are ways people can prevent light pollution.

“There are lots of problems that are really hard to solve, like climate change, but light pollution is the biggest problem that’s the easiest to solve,” Bell says. “The biggest factor is street lights, so if you live in a neighborhood where a street light shines in your window, you can complain about that and ask them to install shielding.”

Some cities around the country have already taken steps to limit light pollution. Flagstaff, Arizona, where the International Dark Sky Association was founded, has made great progress keeping its skies dark.

Bell says although light pollution has been getting worse, other solutions include motion-sensor lights and turning outside lights off at home when you’re not using them. He says groups like the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society are working with the International Dark Sky Association to help limit light pollution in the future.

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