Why We’re Advocating for Dark Sky Friendly Lighting in Jackson Hole
Want to get involved?
If you live or visit Jackson, please take 3 minutes to take our Dark Night Sky survey and get 15% off a Private Stargazing Program with Wyoming Stargazing!
Light pollution in Jackson has become a problem for the health and safety of people and wildlife, not to mention the wasted money and energy associated with unnecessary artificial light. Light pollution also impedes 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 Hole 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 Hole. Download instructions for how to participate in the citizen science research project here!
With generous support from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, the Teton Conservation District, 1% for the Tetons, the JH Travel and Tourism Board, Free Roaming Photography, the Teton Photography Group, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and many private donors we’re trying to help the Town of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park achieve Dark Sky Certification from the International Dark Sky Association. Why? Continue reading or watch the video farther down the page.
The Town of Jackson and Teton County
We are currently working with the Town of Jackson and Teton County to update their Exterior Lighting Standards and Sign Standards. We proposed 51 amendments to the Exterior Lighting Standard and Sign Standard combined. The Town of Jackson accepted 49 of those proposed amendments. The new Town of Jackson Exterior Lighting Standard and Sign Standard will be ratified after three public readings later this summer. We’ll post the new Exterior Lighting Standard here as soon as it’s publicly available. Teton County is working through the same process and is also expected to adopt 49 or 50 or our proposed amendments. Teton County is currently a couple months behind the Town of Jackson in terms of scheduled public hearings.
Grand Teton National Park
We completed a comprehensive outdoor lighting inventory of Grand Teton National Park earlier this summer. The official results will be posted here soon. The good news is that GTNP is well on its way to becoming Dark Sky compliant.
Realtime Night Sky Quality Measurements
The Town of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park
Understanding the Data
The green trace is the zenith brightness (“mag”, in TESS-Photometer magnitudes per square arcsecond). The readings we are getting on averaging of around 20 mags put Jackson into the Suburban category for sky brightness. We can do better!
The orange is the ambient air temperature in Celsius inside the TESS-Photometer (“tamb”); and the blue is the sky ‘temperature’ in Celsius (“tsky”).
tamb-tsky is a measure of how clear the sky is, and what the software uses to make a guess about whether the sky is clear or cloudy. If tamb and tsky are similar, it’s probably because there are thick clouds or overcast skies. But when the sky is clear (and cooling radiatively) there’s a big difference between tamb and tsky. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good first-order guess. If tamb < +10℃ and mag > 10, a resistive heater inside the case switches on to keep water from condensing on the window.
In the upper left hand drop down menu in the graph below, select stars725 for Grand Teton measurements and stars726 for Jackson measurements.
Reasons to Reduce 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.
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.
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.
“[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!”
Save Our Night Skies Goals, 2022
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
Long-Term – 5 years
- Decrease level of light pollution in Jackson from a 5 to a 4 on the Bortle Scale
- Decrease level of light pollution in GTNP from a 3 to a 2 on the Bortle Scale
If you would like Wyoming Stargazing’s assistance with chatting with your neighbors about light pollution, please give us a call or send us an email. Our phone number is 1-844-996-7827 (1-844-WYO-STAR). Our email address is email@example.com
Check out other US communities and parks that have achieved Dark Sky Status
Dark Sky National Parks, Reserves, and Sanctuaries
- Canyonlands National Park
- Central Idaho
- Cosmic Campground
- Death Valley National Park
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Great Basin National Park
- Rainbow Bridge National Monument
- Full List of Dark Sky National Parks
- Full List of Dark Sky Reserves
- Full list of Dark Sky Sanctuaries
Dark Sky Communities and Urban Night Sky Places
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.
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!
So What’s the Solution?
We’re not against artificial light at night and we’re not asking everyone to eliminate it or to live without it. We just want people to know how to illuminate outdoor areas in ways the minimize light pollution.
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. That reduces energy consumption and saves you money by using a lower wattage bulb!
Want to take action steps?
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.
NASA Develop is focused on integrating NASA’s Earth observations to help meet the challenges of environmental change and improve life on our planet. Wyoming Stargazing was a Community Partner for two NASA Develop projects for 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.
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.