LIGHT POLLUTION: Locating Dark, Starry Parks In The Eastern United States… | & More News Here

Amid the community of synthetic lights lights that span our planet like a recreation of connect-the-dots, darkness is a treasured commodity. There are locations, nonetheless, the place the terrain and distance from cities assist preserve mild air pollution to a minimal. Watoga State Park in japanese West Virginia is one such place.

Watoga and the close by Calvin Price State Forest and Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park mix to span a complete of 31 sq. miles (80 sq. kilometers) of Pocahontas County. Located within the highlands of the Allegheny Mountains, the parks are comparatively distant—removed from the glow of main cities that mild up a lot of the japanese United States. Only a handful of small cities and farms dot the in any other case closely forested panorama.

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The remoteness of the realm is clear on this nighttime picture, which reveals the sample of human settlement throughout West Virginia. The picture was acquired on April 24, 2022, with the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite tv for pc. The picture comes from the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects mild in a variety of wavelengths from inexperienced to near-infrared and makes use of filtering strategies to watch alerts reminiscent of auroras, metropolis lights, and mirrored moonlight.


Image Credit: NASA

The second picture (under), acquired on October 18, 2021, with the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, reveals a natural-color view of the parks in the course of the daytime.


Image Credit: NASA

Recent adjustments have made the parks even darker than only a few years in the past. Mary Dawson and Louanne Fatora, board members of the Watoga State Park Foundation, obtained funding that allowed them to switch current lights all through the park with new fixtures that intention downward and use bulbs that trigger much less mild air pollution.

In addition, volunteer astronomers tracked the standard of nighttime darkness over the span of a 12 months, and the park held a number of occasions to teach the general public about darkish skies. The efforts culminated in all three parks receiving official standing as “dark sky parks” in October 2021. They had been the state’s first parks to obtain the designation from the International Dark-Sky Association.

Even designated darkish sky parks aren’t fully darkish. Instead, they’re lit by pure sources reminiscent of starlight and moonlight. The celestial mild present attracts novice astronomers, stargazers, and photographers. The {photograph} under, shot by Jeff Ball, reveals the Milky Way over Watoga Lake. The title Watoga is the Cherokee phrase for “starry waters,” in accordance with the park’s web site.


Image Credit: Jeff Ball

While darkish skies are favored by stargazers, they’re additionally necessary for the native ecology. “Watoga’s dark sky designation is just as much about the preservation of habitat for many unique species of animals, plants, and insects, as it is about the clarity of the night sky,” Fatora stated.

For instance, the park is house to the uncommon “synchronous” firefly. It’s the timing of their flashes—made in rhythmic, synchronized intervals—that units their mating show aside from different fireflies. Watoga State Park is considered one of a handful of public areas within the United States the place individuals can view the show. The park’s safety from mild air pollution must also profit the fireflies, that are delicate to mild.

Visitors ought to be conscious that firefly shows final only a few weeks of the summer time, and celestial views are sometimes obscured by clouds. But as West Virginia’s largest state park, Watoga affords loads of actions, reminiscent of mountain climbing, paddling, and swimming, to maintain guests busy till the pure mild reveals return.

NASA Earth Observatory photos by Joshua Stevens, utilizing VIIRS day-night band knowledge from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership and Landsat knowledge from the U.S. Geological Survey. Photograph by Jeff Ball. Story by Kathryn Hansen.

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