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International Dark Sky Week Celebrated in Kanab

March 3, 2022 by admin
Policy/Legislative

Free binocular and telescope training sessions provided by Kanab’s nonprofit Stellar Vista Observatory (SVO) were held at two locations last week under clear night skies. Over 40 people including families with children used SVO’s telescope and binocular observing kits, learning a range of new skills to enjoy southern Utah’s wonderfully starry nights. The events were organized to celebrate International Dark Sky Week, April 5-12, 2021. Participants cheerfully observed public health recommendations by wearing masks and remaining in family groups.

 

The atmosphere was calm, clear and dark with SQM readings of 21.45 mag arc/seconds on Wednesday night at Jackson Flat Reservoir and 21.85 mag arc/seconds on Friday night at the BLM’s ‘Zion View Star Field’ off Hwy 89 north of Kanab. Those readings correspond to Bortle Class 3 and Class 2 Skies (Class 1 is as good as it gets with Class 9 being worst).

 

Everyone noticed the conditions for star viewing were fantastic, especially those visiting the area from large cities where they live, taking full advantage of the opportunity while vacationing. Participants learned how to recognize the major constellations of the April sky, heard wonderful Greek and Native American cultural stories about them, then set about observing star clusters and nebulae embedded within them. Brief outdoor lighting demos explaining light pollution and showing how homeowners can help preserve the visibility of the stars were equally well received.

 

Doubling the enjoyment, several folks attending mentioned “Utah Dark Sky Month”. They had read the Governor’s declaration, issued a few days earlier!

According to Governor Spencer Cox, Utah is uniquely positioned to benefit from preserving its naturally dark skies. In a statement released on April 5, Governor Cox declared the month of April, 2021 as Utah Dark Sky Month, writing that, “….more than 80% of people in North America can’t see the Milky Way at night. Luckily, we have 23 accredited International Dark Sky places in Utah. With the highest concentration of International Dark-Sky Association-certified locations, however, comes great responsibility.”

His message goes on to say, “Dark skies are integral to the well-being of many animal and plant species, and they have positive health impacts on humans. The astrotourism industry is anticipated to generate nearly $6 billion and support more than 113,000 new jobs in the American Southwest over the next decade. And the implementation of dark sky practices in land use, construction, utilities, and other aspects of community life actively promotes local governance, reduces energy-costs, and preserves Utah’s Western lifestyle.”

“We want to recognize these facts, as well as the partnership of federal, state, and local agencies and Utah’s recreation, tourism, and education sectors, which make night sky opportunities in our state available for all to enjoy — which is why we’ve declared April 2021, as Utah Dark Sky Month.”

The Governor’s official declaration can be seen at: https://governor.utah.gov/2021/04/05/utah-dark-sky-month/

To date, SVO’s astronomy equipment lending program, “Discover the Night Sky”, funded by a Children’s Outdoor Recreation Grant from the Governor’s Office of Outdoor Education and Kane County Office of Tourism, has served nearly 100 residents and visitors to the area. That is sure to increase with warmer weather emerging. The program will continue throughout the reminder of the year. Quality observational equipment is made available on loan for free by visiting https://stellarvistaobservatory.org/discover-the-night-sky/

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