Darkest Town in America

ENVIRONMENT

Taking in the view from Gerlach, Nevada. (FiveThirtyEight)

What is light pollution?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit, including today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

Take a look at today’s MapMaker Interactive map. Where are the world’s “dark sky communities”?

Take a look at today’s MapMaker Interactive map. Where are the world’s “dark sky communities”?

Discussion Ideas

  • The FiveThirtyEight essay details a visit to the least light-polluted community in the United States—the tiny town of Gerlach, Nevada. What is light pollution?
    • Light pollution describes the artificial illumination of the night sky. Light pollution can limit visibility of faint stars and other celestial objects.
    • At least one study describes light pollution as the alteration of natural lighting levels by anthropogenic sources of light. Natural lighting levels are governed by natural celestial sources (mainly the Moon) natural atmospheric emission (airglow), the stars and the Milky Way, and zodiacal light. Natural phenomena may influence light, including atmospheric conditions (such as the presence of storm clouds) and snow cover.

 

 

 

  • dark-sky-communitiesTake a look at the second bookmark in today’s MapMaker Interactive map, which uses our “Lights at Night” layer. Why do you think so many places not illuminated by artificial lights are not official “Dark Sky Communities”?
    • Paperwork, basically. Communities have to apply to be designated a Dark Sky Community. Part of the application process includes having a local organization that “has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies.” Many genuinely dark-sky communities in rural Africa, South America, Australia, and Northern Asia simply have not invested in these local nonprofit organizations.

 

  • land-useTake a look at the third bookmark in today’s MapMaker Interactive map, which uses our population density and “human footprint” layers. What are some relationships between a community’s light pollution, population density, and land use?
    • Urban areas, which have high population density, are much more vulnerable to light pollution.
    • Regions whose land-use includes a stable and widespread electrical grid are more prone to light pollution. Homes, businesses, schools, and hospitals are often well-lit and even over-illuminated in the developed world.

 

Illustration courtesy International Dark-Sky Association

Illustration courtesy International Dark-Sky Association

  • How can we combat light pollution?

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

FiveThirtyEight: The Darkest Town In America

Nat Geo: Nearly 80% of U.S. Populations Can’t See the Milky Way

Nat Geo: Where are the world’s dark-sky communities? map

International Dark-Sky Association: International Dark Sky Communities

National Park Service: Night Skies

Globe at Night

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