Those of us that live on the Western Slope are no stranger to spectacular scenery. The jagged peaks, chiseled canyons, and expansive plateaus of western Colorado are treasures that we all cherish. But one of our most spectacular natural wonders may also be one of our least appreciated: our incredibly dark and pristine night skies.
It is likely that no matter where you live on the Western Slope, you can walk into your backyard on a clear, moonless night and see several thousand stars shimmering overhead. In summer, you can probably even see our own galaxy, the Milky Way, spanning the sky from horizon to horizon. Unfortunately, nearly three quarters of Americans can’t say the same thing. Light pollution from cities has made dark skies hard to find in the 21st Century.
A dark starry sky is more than just a beautiful sight. For millennia, humans have looked to the stars to navigate, to know when to plant and harvest crops, and for entertainment. As artificial lighting invades our night sky, we are losing not only the stars, but this connection to our past.
Spending a night beneath the dark skies of the Western Slope is to experience the night the way our ancestors did, free from the distractions of cell phones, television and the internet, letting us make our own personal connection with the cosmos. Light pollution also has adverse impacts on nocturnal wildlife, and can even cause our own sleep cycles to be disrupted.
Come celebrate our dark skies with us during the 5th Annual Astronomy Festival at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from June 25th to 28th.
Today’s feature was written by Zach Schierl and recorded by Joyce Tanihara of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.