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Idahoans Encouraged to Stargaze During Dark Sky Week

The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is the first and only preserve of its kind in the country. (Eddie Yip/Flickr)
The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve is the first and only preserve of its kind in the country. (Eddie Yip/Flickr)
April 17, 2018

KETCHUM, Idaho – This week, people are celebrating the stars for International Dark Sky Week. The week has special significance this year in Idaho, which gained the first dark sky preserve in the country in December.

The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve stretches across 1,400 square miles in the Sawtooth Valley and includes the cities of Ketchum, Stanley and Sun Valley.

Betsy Mizell, community engagement associate with the Idaho Conservation League, says gazing at the Milky Way can inspire awe - when it's visible. She says a night without light pollution also can benefit our health.

"There's a big human health component to it, with our circadian rhythms, and wildlife as well," she says. "A bunch of wildlife is nocturnal and the overuse of light is really affecting them and how they can survive."

Mizell says the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve has garnered a lot of interest and is becoming a hotspot for astro-tourism. Cities in the region have reduced light pollution through local ordinances. Ketchum earned designation as a Dark Sky Community last October. Nationwide, more than 80 percent of Americans live in cities and metropolitan areas where light has diluted views of the night sky.

David Ingram, head of the Northwest chapter of the International Dark Sky Association, says light pollution may not be recognized like things such as air and noise pollution because we often cordon ourselves off from the night. Because of that, it's hard to track the effects light pollution has had on the environment and wildlife.

Ingram says it's important in a philosophical sense to give the night sky back to the next generation as well.

"What happens to the soul of a man when he loses touch with the natural night sky?" he asks. "And I think we're now the second generation that has been out of touch with the sky."

Ingram says LED lights have both helped and hurt the fight against light pollutions. He says these types of bulbs are efficient, but should be pointed at the ground rather than outside windows when possible, and turned off when they aren't in use.

Ingram and Mizell note reducing light pollution often is as easy as turning off a light switch.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID