Why We’re Advocating for Smarter Lighting in Jackson Hole
Light pollution in Jackson has become a problem for the health and safety of people and wildlife, not to mention its draining effects on our economy and our ability to enjoy dark night skies. Many other cities around the globe are capitalizing on promoting their efforts to restore their night skies. We can save our night skies too! Wyoming Stargazing is embarking on a campaign to Save Our Night Skies in Jackson and we need your help. You can sign up below for the Save Our Night Skies E-mail list to receive updates on what’s happening with this campaign and you can participate in our citizen science research project with your smartphone to collect data on light pollution in Jackson. Download instructions for how to participate in the citizen science research project here!
We’ve teamed up with Free Roaming Photography, the Teton Photography Group, and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance to help Jackson achieve Dark Sky Certification from the International Dark Sky Association. Why? Continue reading or watch the video farther down the page.
What’s at Stake from Light Pollution?
Dark Night Skies are a part of the community character in Jackson (Comprehensive Plan Policy 1.3.d). Those of us who live in Jackson Hole are incredibly fortunate to be in a place where we can still see a spectacular number of stars from just a few miles outside of the Town of Jackson. As of 2016, only 20% of people in the US could see the arms of the Milky Way Galaxy from where they lived (Faichi et al. 2016). In downtown Jackson, that view is very close to being lost.
- International Dark Sky Association
- Dark Skies Awareness
- Sky and Telescope Magazine: Everything You Wanted to Know About Light Pollution
- Globe at Night
- Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP)
Apps to Help Out
Dark Sky Meter – iOS
The Dark Sky Meter measures the artificial sky brightness in two simple steps. Just cover the camera and aim to the point right above your head.
Several scientific studies have shown that lighting at night disrupts sleep patterns and hormone production. Some of those hormones have been proven to help mitigate cancerous growths. With properly shielded lighting–ideally using a warm color (reddish instead of blueish)–sleep is drastically improved and hormones such as melatonin are produced naturally, allowing for improved health.
The belief that more lighting leads to more safety is nothing more than a myth. “There is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crimes. It may make us feel safer, but has not been shown to make us safer” (IDA). Unshielded lighting causes our eyes to adjust to the brightness of the light itself, thereby hiding objects or people hidden behind the light in the shadows. Shielded lighting increases visibility by reducing glare, which makes it easier to pick out would-be criminals as well as people and animals crossing the road.
Wildlife and Ecosystems
Animals suffer just as much as humans do with excess or unnecessary lighting at night. Moths and other insects are attracted to brighter lights. The light causes them to leave their natural area, which leads birds and bats to expend more energy hunting those insects farther from their homes. Light pollution also negatively affects the migration of birds, resulting in an estimated 1,000,000,000+ bird deaths every year. Larger prey species are also left at a disadvantage because more light means fewer places to hide. That excess light allows predators to create dangerous instabilities in ecosystems.
“[The International Dark Sky Association] estimates that at least 30 percent of all outdoor lighting in the U.S. alone is wasted, mostly by lights that aren’t shielded. That adds up to $3.3 billion and the release of 21 million tons of carbon dioxide per year!”
Want to help out?
Sign up for the Save Our Night Skies e-mail list:
So What’s the Solution?
We’re not at all against light at night, and we’re certainly not asking everyone to eliminate it and to live without it. We’re simply educating people that there are much better ways to illuminate property at night, and that much of the lighting that gets installed (and is still getting installed) around Jackson is having a very detrimental impact to many different aspects of our community, as listed above.
Fortunately, the solution is extremely simple. By shielding a light and pointing it down, you hide the bulb from view, increasing visibility while also minimizing the amount of light that goes up into the sky, which is where it’s completely unnecessary. Also, when light is pointed downward, you don’t need as strong of a bulb since it’s all concentrated in one direction. This saves you money!
Want to take it a step further?
Consider using a warmer-appearing light instead of white. At the same wattage, a white light can contribute up to eight times the amount light pollution of a warmer, orange-looking light. Warmer-looking lights also have less of an impact on wildlife and even help you sleep better at night. They’ll also help your eyes adjust better to the darkness, allowing for more visibility in the shadows, and also up into the night sky! Imagine being able to see the Andromeda Galaxy from your backyard!
Currently, shielded lighting fixtures are not available locally within Jackson, but don’t worry, we plan on fixing that too. In the meantime though, take a look at the International Dark Sky Association’s Dark Sky Friendly Lighting page to help you get started and you too can easily help us save our night skies.
You can also get more great info about the negative affects of light pollution and about LED lights here. LED lights can save you money and reduce light pollution if they are properly shielded.
Save Our Night Skies Goals, 2020
Short Term – 1 Year
- Have appropriate language for dark sky certification included into the Town of Jackson and Teton County Land Development Regulations (LDRs)
Interim – 1-4 Years
- Make dark sky lighting hardware available locally
- Obtain Dark Sky Certification for Jackson, Teton County, and Grand Teton National Park
Light Pollution Citizen Science Research Project
We’re overseeing a citizen science project to establish some baseline data for light pollution in town an around the valley. We want to keep track of how much light pollution decreases as our campaign progresses. Download instructions for how to participate!
NASA Develop is focused on integrating NASA’s Earth observations to help meet the challenges of environmental change and improve life on our planet.
Anthropogenic disruption of natural lighting patterns, known as “light pollution,” causes measurable damage to Earth’s ecosystems, human health, and decreases enjoyment of night sky viewing. Increasing nighttime sky brightness is a serious problem in the United States, with nearly 100% of Americans living under light-polluted skies and only 3% able to see the Milky Way from their homes. Historically, Grand Teton National Park has been a sanctuary for those searching for dark night skies because of its isolation and low humidity. However, light pollution is encroaching on the park from nearby towns reducing the quality of the dark sky that brings tourism to the park and protects the wildlife inside. This project partnered with the National Park Service, Grand Teton National Park and the International Dark-Sky Association to use NASA’s Earth observations to identify sources of light pollution in the park and assess the impact of recent changes to lighting practices around the park. Through the use of Suomi NPP Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day-Night Band data, the team created maps of artificial night sky brightness in order to assess areas where changes in lighting practices are effective in reducing light pollution in addition to where further mitigation efforts are needed. Products created by the team provide the project partners with information about the extent of light pollution in the park.
Wyoming Stargazing was a Community Partner for two NASA Develop projects over the last two years. The first project involved the creation of a Skyglow Estimation Toolbox (SET) and the second was a refinement of that program to estimate sky glow at any angle above the horizon.