Published: Sept. 11, 2016 By

I was a bit surprised that Westcliffe and Silvercliffe, two small towns next to each other, that have International Dark Sky (IDA) certification, took fifteen years to complete the process. Recently a group of astronomers in Montrose obtained certification for the Black Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon National Park also was recently certified. I don’t know how long it took them but not fifteen years. When I read the requirements on the IDA website it seemed easy.

As with The Cliffes, Norwood’s objectives are three-fold: First, to preserve this amazing sky we enjoy both day and night for locals and visitors. Second, to attract national and international astronomers (professional and amateur) to visit Norwood for viewing sessions; we might even get a few to return to live here. Third, to attract young and old to science and technology.

IDA’s objective is somewhat different: reduce light pollution on Earth for local enjoyment of the night sky and astronomy. IDA defines light pollution as necessary lighting that is either directed or scattered upward and unnecessary lighting. To see why, check out which shows the earth at night using GoogleEarth. There are huge areas, mainly large cities that are as bright as the moon! There are also many detailed images taken by astronauts on the Space Station A large portion of the world’s population in the Northern Hemisphere have never seen the Milky Way; in Norwood you can see it before the dark night sky arrives. We are lucky.

Since I was new at this I was unaware of a mature culture of amateur astronomers. Far from a scattered population, I have found there are many astronomical societies, clubs, and associations in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming among many others nationally and internationally. And they travel to dark sky areas for those few days around the new moon. For instance, prior to a talk I gave about Norwood to the Longmont Astronomical Society, there was a report on a trip to a high desert in Chile made last year.

IDA certification is fairly easy: we have to be nominated by an IDA member, have Town ordinances that comply with IDA standards,  get letters of support from local, county, and state government, take measurements that show we are truly “dark sky” and comply with on-going IDA standards. However, if we want to use the IDA certification to attract astronomers, we enter another world; one that is somewhat bureaucratic. While local star parties are relatively easy to do, attracting and hosting an astronomical society is a very different thing. We will need a legal, non-profit organization with fund-raising ability, good and varied accommodations from B & B to camping, power (some bring their own generators and batteries), food (some hosts provide catered meals), liability insurance, and even portapotties! We really have our work cut out for us. Representatives from Longmont and Black Canyon are coming soon for an initial look and provide advice.