CANCELED - WSU Leads Effort to Designate ‘Dark-Sky’ Park

May 14, 2014

Due to overcast skies, the event to introduce the community to the wonder of the stars from the park has been canceled.

OGDEN, Utah – Weber State University faculty and students, along with the Ogden Valley Starry Nights organization, hope to preserve a view of the stars from North Fork Park in Weber County by applying for prestigious accreditation as an International Dark-Sky Park.

To introduce the community to the wonder of the stars from the park (4150 E. 5950 N., Liberty, Utah), Weber County Parks and Recreation, the Ogden Astronomical Society and Ogden Valley Starry Nights will sponsor “Star Party 2014” on May 23 at 8:30 p.m. in the park.

The party will feature powerful telescopes and the collective expertise of Weber State faculty and the Ogden Astronomical Society. With cooperative weather, the Milky Way — not seen by 80 percent of the world’s population due to urbanization and over-lighting — will be visible to all who attend. Participants should bring warm clothing, binoculars, a smart phone and a flashlight with a red covering, and should enter at the North Cutler Flats Gate and follow signs to the View Bowery.  

Accreditation through the International Dark-Sky Association recognizes parks that have low light-pollution levels with a gold-, silver- or bronze-level designation.

If the accreditation effort is successful, North Fork Park will be only the second county park in the U.S. to be so recognized and would be the first to be “urban adjacent.” The light-pollution levels of the Wasatch Front equal those in parts of Los Angeles, making the stargazing advantages of North Fork Park unusual indeed. Natural Bridges National Monument in Lake Powell, Utah, became the first Dark-Sky Park in the world in 2007.

“Light pollution is the catchall term that describes the results of the dramatic increase and inefficient release of nighttime artificial lighting,” according to WSU assistant geography professor Jeremy Bryson.

Last fall Bryson was teaching Geography 4410, Sustainable Land Use Planning, and was looking for a project for his students that incorporated geographic mapping, sustainable technology and community planning.

“I had some interest in light pollution — it washes out the night sky and steals the stars,” Bryson said. “I tried to see if anyone was dealing with it around Ogden, so I contacted Ogden Valley Starry Nights.”

Janet Muir, a member of Ogden Valley Starry Nights, told him about the push to accredit North Fork Park and that the park could probably receive a bronze-level designation.

“His email came out of nowhere,” Muir said, “but it set the project in motion. Without Weber State none of this would be possible.”

Through a grant from the Hall Endowment for Community Outreach Grants administered by WSU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning, Bryson and his students purchased meters that measure the levels of light pollution. During a new moon in October, the team trekked through the park, taking measurements. North Fork Park’s 2,465 acres lie in elevation between 5,800 and 6,200 feet and are bounded by the Wasatch Mountains.

WSU physics professor Stacy Palen is also a collaborator with the project and has visited many star parties at Antelope Island during her 12 years at WSU but said that the island is out of the way and expensive to visit. She had been searching for a new site. Dark skies are imperative for not only astronomy students to observe the sky but also to introduce younger students to modern science.

“I can’t imagine how people walk around all day without the entire universe in their heads all the time and how that changes the way you look at everything that happens to you,” Palen said. “There are so many people living on the Wasatch Front and for them to lose the night sky entirely would be a travesty. This is an opportunity to save some of our shared heritage.”

According to the International Dark-Sky Association’s website, there is even more at stake than our heritage: “Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars; poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion in the U.S. alone.”

Visit darksky.org for more information about the International Dark-Sky Association and starrynightsutah.org for more information about Ogden Valley Starry Nights.

Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.

For a high-resolution photo, visit the following link:

wsuucomm.smugmug.com/Press-Release-Photos/2014-photos/May-2014/i-B2PBSvx/0/L/DarkSkiesMay2014thumb-L.jpg
Contact:
Jeremy Bryson, geography professor
801-626-6242 jeremybryson@weber.edu
 
Stacy Palen, physics professor
801-626-7030 spalen@weber.edu
 
Janet Muir, Ogden Valley Starry Nights member
917-385-6555 janet.e.muir@gmail.com
Author:
Cozette Jenkins, University Communications
801-626-7948 • cozettejenkins@weber.edu

Weber State UniversityOgden, Utah 84408

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