dark skies are disappearing;
electric light is burning out the stars, galaxies, & meteors –
but, happily, it is the simplest of the pollutions to repair
Presently, Cook Forest State Park often displays a spectacular dark sky star show on clear, new moon evenings – but this once-pristine darkness is increasingly encroached upon. Business lights, homes, headlights, and spotlights all dilute the natural night, which is not only nice for stargazing, but is essential to the proper function of all creatures, humans included.
Fewer and fewer locations in North America still permit a view of the starry sky without dilution from the pollutive light that pervades urbanized and, increasingly, rural, areas. Only one location in Pennsylvania is designated as an International Dark Sky Place – Cherry Springs State Park, 82 acres at the centre of Susquehannock State Forest in north central PA. Without a concentrated effort to reduce the quantity and quality of nighttime lighting, light pollution will continue to spread and intensify across the globe – including across the dark sky of Cook Forest.
In the south Atlantic the glow from a single fishing fleet—squid fishermen luring their prey with metal halide lamps—can be seen from space, burning brighter, in fact, than Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro. – National Geographic Magazine, Our Vanishing Night, Nov. 2008
[M]ore than 80 percent of the planet’s land areas—and 99 percent of the population of the United States and Europe—live under skies so blotted with man-made light that the Milky Way has become virtually invisible. – National Geographic Magazine 80 Percent of Americans Can’t See the Milky Way Anymore, June 2016.
Dark Skies still reign over Cook Forest
Cook Forest is among the very few exceptions – for now. Cook Forest and its surrounding woodlands are within the small area overlaying Forest, Clarion, and Jefferson counties in the northwest of the state, the only spot of deep blue remaining except for Cherry Springs State Park – a designated IDA dark sky park – and undeveloped Susquehannock State Forest surrounding it to our east:
Help Keep the Night Dark
If you’re visiting, keep outdoor camp lights to a minimum, and try to use dim-wattage warm-toned lighting (e.g. firelight tones, as opposed to the cool blue light of white LEDs). Red or green filters for flashlights and camp lanterns provide illumination without weakening your night vision or polluting the surrounding area – these can be bought, or made out of light gels & duct tape, or holiday-color saran wrap & a rubber band. Please don’t spotlight wildlife. Let your hosts know if area lighting is brighter than necessary, or on more hours than necessary – they’ll save in energy expenses, as well, by moderating wattage output.
If you’re a resident or business owner, try to use dark sky lighting. Lights should shield bulbs, and direct light downward instead of laterally and into the sky. Whatever your fixtures, limit the hours of use, and especially the wattages, of the bulbs – which ideally should be on the warm or amber end of the spectrum (up to 2700 or 3000 K [kelvin], not “daylight” or bright white).
Above, learn a bit about why preserving the night sky matters, for all living creatures. Light pollution has increased by 6 to 10% each year – but community cooperation and thoughtful selection of fixtures can maintain the magnificent dark sky of Northwest Pennsylvania.
Below, see the difference darkness makes in by viewing starscapes from locations with increasingly low levels of light pollution:
Closer to Cook Forest
Cook Forest State Park and its beautiful starscape are right in the middle of this map from LightPollutionMap.info, and you can see the illumination hotspots creeping toward us from all directions. Worse yet would be yellow growing within park boundaries – lining the Clarion River, spilling from property to property, chasing darkness and its wildlife deeper into ever shrinking pools of night. Cook Forest and its people must fight to retain our stars.
Not only are they a disappearing part of our cultural heritage, the constant glow is damaging so many facets of the natural world – disrupting the health of people, nocturnal animals, trees, turtles, birds.
“Between 9.8 million and 1 billion birds die annually die to light pollution,” according to Carnegie Mellon University lecturer in Physics, Diane Turnshek, during her informative TEDx Talk, here:
Whether you support our efforts to keep the skies over Cook Forest dark – by campaigning for IDA designation, or just by advocating good-neighbor policies, whether you have questions, or would like advice on fixtures, let us know!
We need community support for this project to succeed, and we welcome your questions and involvement.