I never dreamed it could happen. I grew up in a very rural area and I loved watching the stars appear as daytime turned into darkness. As I grew older, I learned how to spot planets in the sky, and could identify various constellations. I loved learning the ancient folklore that accompanied these pictures in the nighttime sky, as well.
Wouldn’t you love to share your enthusiasm about the dark, night sky with your grandchildren? Me, too! But our dark skies are rapidly disappearing. In fact, astronomers are so alarmed at the loss of dark skies that they’ve invented a new name to describe the pain associated with this loss. The term “noctalgia” means “sky grief.”
Two key culprits are to blame for our disappearing dark skies: artificial light pollution and the ever-growing number of satellites orbiting our planet.
In times past, most of us enjoyed a sky so dark that the Milky Way was visible to nearly everyone, even in populated areas. Now, more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives under light-polluted skies. The primary reason for this loss of darkness is the proliferation of artificial lighting, especially in urban and suburban areas. As cities grow and expand, so does the artificial glow that blocks our view of the stars.
Along with artificial lighting, another factor has crept into the issue: satellites. With the rapid advancement of space technology and the growing demand for global connectivity, satellite constellations are being launched at an unprecedented rate. These satellites, designed for various purposes, emit light and reflect sunlight, inadvertently adding to the light pollution problem.
Impact of light pollution
- Bright streaks. Satellites in low Earth orbit often pass overhead and we see them as bright streaks of light moving across the sky. These streaks can disrupt our observations of natural lights like stars, comets, and meteors.
- Increased light pollution. Satellite constellations, like SpaceX’s Starlink and others, are made of thousands of individual satellites that collectively contribute to a constant glow in the night sky. This added illumination compounds the problem of light pollution, making it even harder to see the stars.
- Astronomical research. Professional astronomers are finding it difficult to capture clear images of naturally occurring objects in the night sky because of satellite interference. This poses a threat to scientific research and understanding.
- Disrupting ecosystems. Light pollution from satellites and other artificial light sources can also impact wildlife, disrupting their natural behaviors like migration patterns and more.
What can RVers do?
Most RVers I know appreciate sitting under a star-filled sky. It’s important to respect the rights of others who want to appreciate the dark skies and moderately dark skies that still remain. Here are some things you can do.
- Decrease your RV’s light pollution. Turn off your outside RV lights—both the porch light and awning lights. Limit your decorative outdoor lights, too, so that other campers can better appreciate the nighttime sky.
- Raise awareness of light pollution among other RVers and campground managers when you have the chance.
- Support companies and organizations who are working on guidelines for satellite constellations to prevent excessive light pollution.
- Visit and support parks that have been honored with the International Dark-Sky Association-certified title. (Only those locations that are unimpeded by light pollution are given this distinction.)
Finding an IDA-certified park
Here is one website to help you find IDA-certified dark sky parks throughout the USA. Plan to visit one of these parks soon!
Have you ever camped in a certified Dark Sky Park? Where was it located? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
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