Chances are that if you step outside your front door at night and look up, you can get a pretty good view of the night sky. Even if you live in a bigger city or town, a short journey by car, bike, or foot can usually get you to some amazing stargazing places. And that’s because you live in a wonderfully wild place called Utah.
We are lucky to be able to experience natural darkness in so many places around Utah. Over 99% of all people in industrialized nations today live under light-polluted skies, and 2/3s of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their homes. But in Utah, we have the darkest skies on average out of any state in the lower 48, and the recognition for these pristine conditions has reached international levels. The world’s first dark sky park was designated right here in Utah at Natural Bridges National Monument. In fact, with 18 official certified dark sky places, Utah has the highest concentration Internationally recognized dark sky places in the entire world.
More and more, we are recognizing how important natural darkness is to our natural and human communities. Wildlife depends on natural darkness for their survival, and light pollution can interfere with reproduction, migration, and even predator avoidance for some wildlife species. For humans, increased light pollution can interrupt sleep patterns, interfere with immune responses, and increase risk for obesity. Naturally dark skies can contribute to positive experiences for people outdoors as well, like an experience of awe.
So next time you want to head outdoors to connect with natural world, consider going somewhere at night. If you want to visit a designated dark sky area, jump online and search “Utah dark sky parks” and plan a trip. Who knows? Maybe you will even get a better night sleep and reduce your stress.
I’m Zach Miller, and I’m Wild About Utah.
Natural Quiet and Darkness in our National Parks-Credits:
Audio: Courtesy and Copyright
Text: Zach Miller, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University
Leavitt, Shauna, Dark Skies, Wild About Utah, January 1, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/dark-skies/
Leavitt, Shauna, Natural Quiet and Darkness in our National Parks, Wild About Utah, May 6, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/natural-quiet-and-darkness-in-our-national-parks/
Strand, Holly, Of Shooting Stars, Wild About Utah, August 6, 2009, https://wildaboututah.org/of-shooting-stars/
Cokinos, Christopher. 2009. The Fallen Sky: An Intimate History of Shooting Stars. Penguin Group, Inc. http://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Sky-Intimate-History-Shooting/dp/1585427209
Cedar Breaks National Monument Designated as an International Dark Sky Park, https://www.nps.gov/cebr/learn/news/cedar-breaks-national-monument-designated-as-an-international-dark-sky-park.htm
Burkitt, Bree, Cedar Breaks recognized as Dark Sky Park, The Spectrum, https://www.thespectrum.com/story/news/local/cedar-city/2017/03/09/cedar-breaks-recognized-dark-sky-park/98980850/
Spotlight – The Cedar Breaks National Monument Master Astronomer Program, Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative, https://cpdarkskies.org/2018/10/17/spotlight-the-cedar-breaks-national-monument-master-astronomer-program/
Clear Sky Charts, Utah, Attilla Danko, ClearDarkSky.com, http://cleardarksky.com/csk/prov/Utah_charts.html
Utah Leads The World With Nine International Dark Sky Parks, International Dark-Sky Association, http://www.darksky.org/utah-leads-the-world-with-nine-international-dark-sky-parks/
Dark Sky Parks, Utah Office of Tourism, https://www.visitutah.com/things-to-do/dark-sky-parks
Top 5 Star Gazing Spots in Utah, Utah.com, Utah Travel Industry Website, https://utah.com/article/top-5-star-gazing-spots
Eyes In The Sky: Exploring Global Light Pollution With Satellite Maps, International Dark-Sky Association, http://www.darksky.org/eyes-in-the-sky-exploring-global-light-pollution-with-satellite-maps/
Dark Skies, Antelope Island State Park, https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/antelope-island/dark-skies/
Utah State Parks Dark Skies Program, State Parks, Utah Department of Natural Resources, https://stateparks.utah.gov/resources/utah-state-parks-dark-sky-initiative/
Stargazing, Arches National Park, https://www.nps.gov/arch/planyourvisit/stargazing.htm
Lightscape / Night Sky, Arches National Park, https://www.nps.gov/arch/learn/nature/lightscape.htm
Night Skies, Natural Bridges National Monument, https://www.nps.gov/nabr/learn/nature/darkskypark.htm
Marc Toso, AncientSkys.com, http://www.ancientskys.com/
Experience the Magic of the Stars at Utah’s State Parks, Utah State Parks Blog, State of Utah, April 13, 2023, https://stateparks.utah.gov/2023/04/13/experience-the-magic-of-the-stars-at-utahs-state-parks/