Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Our dark skies are rapidly disappearing. RVers can help

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.”

Disappearing darkness

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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Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.



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John the road again (@guest_258025)
1 month ago

LED lighting is so awesome; so much illumination for so little current draw. But an unfortunate development are rigs that are now lit like Las Vegas, basically saying “Look at me! Look at me!”. The worse are the 5th Wheels with bright, colored arrays on the front cap that people leave on in the campground for no practical reason, other than perhaps to say “Look at me!”. If you’re going down a dark highway at night, I suppose that’s helpful. But please turn them off at the campground. If I wanted to experience Las Vegas, I’d be camping in Las Vegas.

DW/ND (@guest_257784)
1 month ago

Fortunately, we live in rural area. Unfortunately, due to lawyers, increasing crime and the “it’s about me” generation – street lights and yard lights and camera’s with lights have been added for safety and security. Have an accident in a rural area the investigating lawyer may find the sue the jurisdiction because the corner or whatever wasn’t properly lighted! Sad, as I enjoyed laying on my deck and watching satellites (years ago now!), the Northern Lights and the star patterns as well.

Sunny (@guest_257793)
1 month ago
Reply to  DW/ND

We are talking about RV parks where your neighbour is right next to you they put on their led awning lights that are so intrusive they light up your site and the other campers been there and not pleasant to go thru after dealing with the people that for some reason want to showoff their RV without regards for their camping neighbors some people just don’t get it turn off the lights and enjoy the dark skies

George Thaxton (@guest_257761)
1 month ago

My wife and I enjoy staying at South Llano State Park just outside of Junction, Texas. I believe it has been designated as an IDA park. It is so peaceful to sit outside and look at the stars when the weather cooperates. Unfortunately not everyone adheres to the no outdoor lights policy. Another park in Texas where they do enforce no lights is Davis Mountains State park outside of Ft. Davis. Because of the McDonald observatory nearby the whole area is kept dark. The number of stars visible to the naked eye is awesome.

Dr. Mike (@guest_257746)
1 month ago

Thanks for illuminating this important issue for astronomers (and RVers alike).

I would use the term “frequent flashes” instead of “constant glow.” The latter implies a steady, unchanging level of illumination, which isn’t the case with satellites like Starlink. These satellites appear as individual moving points of light or streaks when they reflect sunlight. Given the high number of satellites in the constellation (growing almost daily!), these flashes can occur quite frequently, making the night sky brighter than it naturally would be, but the glow isn’t “constant.”

In past years, I would take my astronomy class out to see how many flashes they could count during a star party.

Mike Albert (@guest_257745)
1 month ago

We stayed at Grand Canyon Village campground which is located on the southern rim of Grand Canyon National Park, with a group of 25 other rigs. While the majority of the campsites were dark, the bath house had “daytime” lights shining through the windows along the top of the building. So much for “Dark skies”! It was very hard to see the Milky Way. You would think that the NP service would try to keep light pollution to a minimum.

Neal Davis (@guest_257723)
1 month ago

Thank you, Gail. The biggest source of light pollution at our sticks-and-bricks is that thing orbiting the earth that reflects the sun’s light. Guess it’s there all day, but we only see it at night. 😉 (Yes, we live in the sticks. 🙂 )

No, never stayed at a dark-sky (?) campground. I didn’t know that there was such. We tend to leave some of the RV lights burning when we walk the dog after dark so that we can find our RV when we return. I guess we’ll have to rely on light from the moon at one of thses dark-sky (?) campgrounds, huh?

Joseph Phebus (@guest_257700)
1 month ago

Yesterday’s issue had a good discussion on the proliferation and risk of space junk. Today we learned how these satellites are dimming our dark sky.

Starlink plans up to 42000 satellites from the current 4000 or so. Bezo’s Kuiper is not far behind and no doubt the Chinese and other countries following our lead.

No one asked, no one transparently put forth the costs versus benefits, and big business is now on the cusp of ruining one of the joys and wonders humanity has enjoyed, free of charge, since the dawn of time.

The internet and the connection it has brought between people is an amazing and powerful tool. But what is the real cost and where does it end?

Last edited 1 month ago by Joseph Phebus
Cancelproof (@guest_257796)
1 month ago
Reply to  Joseph Phebus

Maybe we need a blue ribbon commission from the folks at the FAA to give us some clarity….. Lol JP. 🌞👍🌎 cheers.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cancelproof
Tommy Molnar (@guest_257691)
1 month ago

Turn off those irritating blue awning lights! And the ‘headlights’ that many trailers have, probably for nighttime hooking and unhooking. If you’re doing neither, keep them off.
There was a ‘discussion’ on campsite lights on another RV site some time ago, and some folks were livid that I complained about nighttime campsite lights.

michele (@guest_257724)
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Well there a lot of campers out there that enjoy going outside at night to see the heavenly sky and not having obnoxious lights shinning out into the sky and into other RV sites if you enjoy the dark sky camping there is a RV park on the Oregon coast called Seal Rocks RV Cove where they have the rule of no outside lights on at night if you need to venture around the park or to walk your pet they suggest headlamps that go on your forehead or step lights to safely come and go to your rv

Gordon den Otter (@guest_257646)
1 month ago

In your article, you refer to “Astrological Research”. I think you meant “Astronomical”. I suspect that dark skies aren’t needed for the kind you mentioned…

Ron T (@guest_257655)
1 month ago

That one jumped out to me too. But as someone living with a light polluted sky I actually love satellites. Non-cloudy nights are rare enough then there’s that moon washing out everything but the constellations. So sitting in the evening counting satellites is often the best I can do. About ten an hour is a good average and the overwhelming majority produce only reflective light except prossibly the ISS or Chinese station which likley have navigation lights used when they are expecting company.

Diane McGovern
1 month ago
Reply to  Ron T

Oops!😲 Thanks, Ron and Gordon. It’s been corrected. Have a good afternoon. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Ran (@guest_257632)
1 month ago

THANK YOU! Most of us have been preaching to the Choir on this topic of light pollution! Turn off those outside lights—-PLEASE!

Bill Byerly (@guest_257813)
1 month ago
Reply to  Ran


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