Join Us for a Party with the Perseids

Join Us for a Party with the Perseids

Perseid Meteor Shower

Both town and county voted in our revised LDRs! We’re now one step closer to becoming a Dark Sky Certified community! Look for a future blog post to see what that means and what the next steps are.

But in the meantime, it’s time for a celebration!

Party with the Perseids!

When: Thursday, August 11th, 8pm – late
Where: Rendezvous Park (R-Park)

Rendezvous Land Conservancy and Wyoming Stargazing are teaming up this August to offer you an extraordinary free public event filled with great food, drinks, live music, games, and of course stargazing. Come on out to R-Park for some fun, family-friendly time and stick around for one of the best meteor showers of the year…the Perseids!

Pica’s will be providing chips, salsa, guacamole, quesadillas, and half-priced margaritas!

Elevated Grounds will be providing hot chocolate and coffee!

Snake River Brewery will be there too with their classic beers!

Elevated Grounds
Pica's Mexican Taqueria
Snake River Brewery

We’ll have Rob and Tasha to serenade you as the sun goes down and plenty of yard games to pass the time. As the stars come out we’ll have several telescopes set up around R-Park to show you the cloud bands of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and possibly even the polar ice caps of Mars. We’ll also show you incredible details on the waxing gibbous moon. Later on we’ll show you star clusters, nebulae, and of course a few galaxies. We should begin seeing the first meteors of the evening as the sky darkens at about 9pm. We’ll see more meteors as the evening progresses. And if you stick around until after the Moon sets at about 12:30am, then the real Perseid Meteor shower begins and it’s one of the best meteor showers of the year.

About This Year’s Perseid Meteor Shower

This year, even with the Moon, we should be able to see about 1 meteor/min. Most of them will appear to radiate from the NE part of the sky near the constellation Perseus, but others will appear in other parts of the sky. This meteor shower, like all meteor shows, is produced by the Earth moving through a debris field in space left there by a comet. In this case, it’s comet Swift-Tuttle that was discovered in 1862.

Please bring a lawn chair and/or blanket to help you enjoy the evening, the food, the drinks, the games, and the meteors!

No need to RSVP – Just show up and join in on the fun!

How Color Temperature Affects Light Pollution

Recently, there’s been a popular move in many cities and towns to retrofit their lighting with LEDs. With cheaper energy use, it seems like a no brainer. What most local governments don’t realize, however, is that there are some serious drawbacks to LED lighting if the options are not properly researched.

A Quick Overview on Color Temperature

First, let’s take a quick look at how our eyes perceive color. Our eyes are made up of rods and cones. Cones are what perceive color in daylight, and rods are our night vision, mostly transmitting information in shades of black and white. (On a separate tangent, most people in urban areas never use their rod vision anymore, a side-effect that has disastrous health consequences.) Daylight on the other hand yields the entire visible spectrum to us. The visible spectrum itself is made up of longer and shorter wavelengths that our rods and cones decipher as different colors as light hits our retinas. All the colors blended together are interpreted as white. Longer wavelengths appear warmer (reds, oranges, yellows), but confusingly, have a lower value on the Kelvin scale, the standard for measuring color temperature (1500K, 2700K, etc.). Conversely, shorter wavelengths appear cooler to the eye (greens, blues, purples). These have a higher value on the Kelvin scale, ranging from 6,500K (which would be considered a warmer-looking HD screen) to 27,000K, a clear blue sky.

White LED Streetlight

Blue is the easiest to scatter not only in the atmosphere (hence blue skies and water), but also in our eyes. It’s therefore a bit harder to make out details in blue-rich light than it is in warmer-colored lights, which is where things get interesting.

The White LED

Due to the way LEDs (and fluorescent lights for that matter) are created, white is never actually an even blend of all the colors. In fact, to create a white-appearing light, it’s required to dramatically increase the shorter-wavelengths (i.e., blue). In normal daytime use, this isn’t much of a problem. Our eyes are already adjusted to the brightness of our surroundings, so the "white" appears perfectly natural. Once day gives way to night, however, a Pandora’s box is opened up by the white LED.

  • Uphill Battle Against Evolution

    During the millions of years of our evolution, there was never prolonged white, or especially blue, light after the sun went down. Having this bright blue light glaring down on citizens throughout the night can have serious consequences on the human body (among most other animals). There’s an increasing amount of evidence confirming this that comes out practically every year. As it was described to me by Dr. Travis Longcore, we’re conducting a massive public health experiment on huge portions of our population without any kind of research or safety precautions being implemented.

  • Increased Brightness

    What many people don’t realize is that at the same wattage, white is significantly brighter than a warmer-appearing color. In fact, at the same wattage output, a white LED light will put out more than eight times more brightness (and thus, light pollution) than a warmer-looking counterpart. The side effects of this are an increase in overall light pollution (even if pointed down), adverse effects to human and wildlife health, and a huge jump in light trespass.

  • Light Trespass

    Report, after report, after report confirms that residents don’t like having daylight at night. It’s not just having daylight overpowering the night. It’s also that this light is so powerful, that it spills into bedrooms and living rooms like never before. This leads to more disturbed sleep and general dissatisfaction with the neighborhood itself. One community was kind enough to listen to its citizens’ complaints and replace the white lights with warmer ones, something we’re working with the Town of Jackson on fixing.

  • Increased Glare

    The LED streetlights are designed in such a way that you can stand underneath them and not think it’s too bright. That’s because the lights are designed to emit light horizontally rather than downward. As a result, the light actually increases glare on the roads, and thus, distracts drivers by making it harder to see the road itself, along with anything else on the road. In addition to making the streets less safe for the general public, the elderly experience glare even worse since light scatters more easily in their eyes.

Solutions to White LEDs

Help is with our Fundraiser

Shielded Lighting

Wyoming Stargazing currently has an ongoing fundraiser to help spread this kind of education and awareness. Since we’re currently working with the town and county, a donation will also have an impact in deciding how they light public areas from this point forward. We need your help though in making sure we have the funding to continue our efforts. Head to this link to help us make our streets safer by applying a more night-friendly lighting.

Warmer-Appearing LED Streetlights

LED manufacturers have also been watching these scenarios play out. Thankfully, there are now streetlights that are 3000K, much safer and healthier than the blue-intensive 6000K lights that are being installed across the country. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing them go even lower on the Kelvin scale. Flagstaff, Arizona makes great use of both warm-colored LEDs, as well as low-pressure sodium. The Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition has an excellent series of charts showing the impact each type of light has on the sky. Based on their evidence, low pressure sodium is still the ideal choice for a streetlight, but is also a harder sell given the low-cost advantages of LED.

Shielding Lights

Adding a protective shield to ensure the light goes downward and not outward is often an easy fix. This helps the reduce the amount of light that is spreading outward, and thus, upward. Shielding also dramatically reduces glare making streets much safer for pedestrians and wildlife.

What Can You Do?

If you’re in the Jackson area, you can help us out in our fundraiser, or signup for our newsletter at the bottom of the site to get updates on our progress, as well as when we could use volunteers. Those of you elsewhere can write your local politicians letting them know your concerns for LED streetlights, while also offering them the alternatives with the reasons why they’re more appropriate. As mentioned, some places will listen to their citizens’ concerns. Plus, the more people that communicate with their local governments about the issue, the more education they’ll have, and the more pressure they’ll have to act appropriately.

Fundraising to Save Our Night Skies

We’ve just launched a brand new fundraiser to help us begin making a big impact on the light pollution in Jackson! If successful, we’ll be able to begin a series of case studies with local businesses in collaboration with Energy Conservation Works, another local nonprofit, to quantitatively measure the light emitted from various locations around the valley. We’ll also have the resources to begin a full scale educational campaign to bring more awareness to the general public about light pollution.

How It Works

There are a couple different ways you can help us reach our fundraising goals.

  1. You can make a monetary donation through the Crowdrise fundraising platform. They give at least 97% of funds raised to Wyoming Stargazing. Even if you can just afford $10 it helps us out.
  2. You can help us raise funds yourself by setting up a fundraising page on Crowdrise by clicking on this link, selecting the ‘JOIN THE TEAM’ or the ‘FUNDRAISE FOR THIS CAMPAIGN’ links near the bottom of the page that opens up, and sharing your fundraising page across all your social media outlets. If you do that you’ll be entered to win one of three fantastic prizes (including a free private stargazing program for you and 4 guests, an 8" Dobsonian telescope, and Wyoming Stargazing swag). These are all being offered for the fundraisers who raise the most money for Wyoming Stargazing.

Get your fundraising pages set up soon because Giving Tuesday, December 1st, is just around the corner!

What You Get Out of It

In addition to the amazing prizes above, by helping us out you’ll get the satisfaction of joining over 500 people who, over the last two years, have helped us offer 116 Free Public Astronomy Programs including stargazing, solar astronomy, and planetarium programs to over 4,300 people. Plus, your donation will be completely tax deductible.

Sky Quality Meter

What We Get Out of It

If all goes well, we’ll have 20 new Sky Quality Meters ($200/each) and 20 GPS units ($85/each) to measure sky brightness at accurate and precise locations. We’ll also have the funds to start printing brochures, fliers, and other educational materials to bring more widespread attention to the problems associated with light pollution and the benefits of alleviating it.

Visit our Save Our Night Skies page to find out more about why reducing light pollution is so important. If you already know all about this stuff and want to help us out please click one of the links below. Thanks!

Donate to Save Our Night Skies

Join the Fundraising Team to Save Our Night Skies

The Latest on Restoring Jackson’s Night Sky

We’ve been making some significant strides in getting Dark Sky Certification for the Town of Jackson and Teton County!

After attending multiple Joint Information Meetings (JIMs) earlier this year and creating a thorough and lengthy draft to implement into the Land Development Regulations (LDRs), we were assigned to work with Principle Planners by the Town of Jackson and Teton County. With their helpful support and feedback, we were able to weed out unnecessary and redundant verbiage to maximize the revision’s effectiveness. This helped to trim down our draft by several pages. One county commissioner even commented that we had everything covered except opening a car door at night.

Next, with the help of some friends and supporters in northern Utah, we were able to meet up with Dr. John Barentine while he was making a visit to that area. Dr. Barentine currently works as the Program Manager for the International Dark Sky Association. He gave us an extensive review of our newly revised LDRs and gave some excellent feedback for more revisions. At the end of the meeting, we had two thumbs up from him, and essentially, the International Dark Sky Association! We’re currently working on the final draft now and will be submitting a formal amendment to the town and county once those are complete. Since public support will be a big help in getting that voted in, be sure to keep up with us on social media and here on the blog and we’ll let you know when that happens.

As if that wasn’t enough, we also recently met with Dr. Bryan Boulanger, a civil engineer working with Yellowstone National Park to minimize their light pollution. He offered some great insight and support to also get Grand Teton National Park certified as well!

To find out why we’re seeking Dark Sky Designations, check out our Save Our Night Skies page here. To learn about why light pollution affects everyone, visit the International Dark Sky Association’s Light Pollution page here.

Broadway with No Lights
Broadway before pedestrian lights were added, where the gas stations were literally blinding drivers. A more practical solution would have been to simply lower the illumination at the gas stations.

What About Those New Lights on Broadway?

Our executive director, Samuel Singer, has been doing some digging and found out that the lights were purchased before the current exterior lighting standard was adopted. Rest assured though, we’re doing our best to get them changed, and that’s exactly what may very well happen. There seems to be a lot of openness to changing the lights from the Acorn style to the Shepard’s Hook model, which several of the lights already are. That would drastically cut down on the amount of light pollution, especially glare, increasing the overall safety of the area for pedestrians, motorists, and wildlife.

The City/County is currently having researchers collect data on the north side of Broadway across from the Shell and Exxon gas stations to see if the grading that was done on that side is enough to reduce wildlife casualties from automobiles, or whether additional lighting might be necessary on that side of the road as well.

Hopefully with some education and increased awareness we can make sure that all new outdoor lighting in Jackson meets the highest dark sky standards, which will save the City money, reduce energy consumption, make our community safer and healthier, and preserve the amazing natural resource of dark skies. Wyoming Stargazing isn’t against new outdoor lighting in Jackson. However, we do want to make sure that we get the best lighting for our entire community.

We are making some excellent strides in restoring the night skies over town! Thanks to everyone for your support and help thus far, and be sure to follow us on social media to get the latest on our developments.

Snow King Observatory Status from Summer 2015

Architecture design by Jakub Galczynski: JakubGalczynski.com

If you’ve ever visited us at one of our free programs, talked with us a bit on a stargazing tour, or even just clicked around this site a little, you know one of our major goals is to bring an observatory and planetarium to Jackson Hole. So how’s that going?

At the moment, there’s really only good news and better news! Our Executive Director, Samuel Singer, met with Max Chapman, the owner of both Snow King and Brooks Lake Lodge (the latter near Togwotee Pass), earlier this year to discuss just that. Chapman loved the idea so much, he worked in an observatory into his Phase II development plan for Snow King just before submitting it to the town and county! The plan was then approved to proceed, and right now, the proposed site is undergoing an impact study on the natural area. The entire study process should potentially last up to the summer of 2018. Assuming it passes, the observatory will shift into the planning phase, possibly taking up to another year. Once that’s complete, the construction will begin on Jackson Hole’s first observatory!

As of the initial planning stages, the proposed size of the mirror for the telescope that will be housed in the observatory will be a full meter wide, nearly double our massive 20" scope! This will allow for substantially better viewing of deep space objects. It will also have some enormous benefits to the community, such as having a completely new option for family activities after dark, while also encouraging scientific literacy and development through hands-on experience with astronomy. Kids growing up here in Jackson Hole are already blessed enough to live in such a rich natural environment, and now they’ll learn just how important the objects in the night sky are as well.

Of course we’ve been asked multiple times when talking about this, "Aren’t Jackson’s skies a little bright for an observatory on top of Snow King?" It is true that they are much brighter than they need to be, and that’s something we’re actually working with Town and County about right now, the developments in that area being enough for a completely separate blog post. Just know that we are making every effort to minimize the lighting in the area and everyone thus far has been very receptive. If you’d like to proactively and voluntarily make your house or business compliant with the new standards we’re hoping to establish, check out our Save Our Night Skies Campaign page for more information. By taking action, you’ll not only be making your property safer while at the same time saving money on energy, you’ll also be helping to restore a more natural night sky above Jackson, encouraging more people to look up after dark. In addition, it will also have a much less disruptive effect on the wildlife of our community.

Our hope is that by the time the observatory opens, we can decrease the amount of light that we’re emitting, which has unnecessarily skyrocketed in recent years. Alternatively though, before the observatory on top of Snow King is scheduled to open, there may be another in the area by then. Since Chapman also owns Brooks Lake Lodge, he’ll be installing one up there as well. This one will be a .7 meter scope (roughly 27 inches) and will be very far away from any light pollution. If you haven’t experienced the night skies up there, you’ll definitely need to make the trip up! The difference is astounding!

In the meantime, keep an eye on this site for any exciting updates and developments. These are exciting times indeed!

Save Our Night Skies Campaign Kick-off Event

Preserving the Night Skies of Jackson HoleWyoming Stargazing is hosting a kick-off event for the Save Our Night Skies Campaign on Thursday, February 19th, beginning at 5:30pm at the Center for the Arts.  This event is part of a larger art show at the Center that is being co-sponsored by the Center of Wonder and Wyoming Stargazing. This Upyard Art Show will highlight the artwork of about a dozen local artists whose work depicts our Upyard, as opposed to our backyard, during the day time and night.  

We are also going to have several local artists, including preschool kids from the Children’s Learning Center and Carrie Wild, each paint a Dobsonian telescopes with either a 6″ and 8″ primary mirror.  Those fully-functional telescopes will be auctioned off with a silent auction during the Opening Night of the Upyard Art Show, also on Thursday, February 19th. The total auction price of each telescope will be split 50/50 between the artists and Wyoming Stargazing.

We’ll also have our Board Member Mike Cavaroc there to show and talk about his documentary film about the night skies over Jackson.  There will be a table with plenty of information about light pollution in Jackson and about how you can get involved with our efforts to reduce it.

After the telescope auction, as long as the weather cooperates, we’ll go outside for some stargazing.

The Center of Wonder and Wyoming Stargazing will be providing hors d’oeuvres and wine.  So, please join us for some food and drink, some amazing artwork, a chance to bid on a beautiful telescope, and to view the night sky through our new telescope with a 20″ primary mirror!  No need to RSVP.

Free Stargazing Has Moved to the Center for the Arts

We’re excited to announce that our free, public stargazing events have moved to the Center for the Arts located in downtown Jackson. This move allows us to reach more people thanks to a more convenient location to both locals and tourists, as well as receiving support from the Center for the Arts itself.

In addition, this move also helps us to educate people on the threats that light pollution pose, which you will be hearing about much more from us as Wyoming Stargazing takes a more active stance in helping Jackson reclaim its night skies. To see what’s at stake, you can watch a short film on the subject on this blog post.

We’ll be meeting on the south side of the building (facing Snow King) on the lawn for the following dates throughout the winter:

  • December: 12th and 26th
  • January: 9th and 23rd
  • February: 13th and 27th
  • March: 13th and 27th
  • April: 10th and 24th

Reclaiming the Night: Preserving the Dark Skies of Jackson Hole

As a board member of Wyoming Stargazing, one of my biggest concerns is making sure our skies are dark enough to continue to run events and programs geared toward a dark night sky. With little success getting through to our local politicians, I went toward another route to drum up support from the community, creating this film. The short film, at just over 12 minutes, discusses the issue of light pollution, how it negatively affects Jackson Hole and beyond, the vast amount of wasted energy spent on it, and how Jackson Hole can benefit exponentially from embracing the night skies, a high priority in the Comprehensive Plan.

The reduction of light pollution is a movement gaining enormous momentum around the world and Jackson has the potential to receive tremendous economic gain by encouraging both residential and commercial areas to begin turning out the lights. If you like this video, or even just the idea of bringing the Milky Way back over the town of Jackson, please contact our local politicians and demand that they use lighting more responsibly.

Thank you for your support!

The film itself was begun this past spring and editing and interviews continued into the summer where the editing process began to build a core story later into the summer. I shot many examples and stills that weren’t able to be used, but was able to find exactly what I needed as the summer began to wind down to create the message I wanted to construct. The final tweaks were made this past weekend, just a couple of days before leaving for the southwest to create the next part of the Reclaiming the Night series. "Antelope Dreaming," the poem at the end, was written and read by Lyn Dalebout.

Maintaining the Dark Skies of Jackson Hole

On Monday, April 28th at 6pm, local nature and wildlife photographer, Mike Cavaroc, will give a public presentation on the subject of light pollution and how it affects Jackson Hole. Specifics on the subject involve how it affects the region and local wildlife, how to implement affordable solutions, certification from the International Dark Sky Association and what that brings, as well as discussing Wyoming Stargazing’s goals of constructing a scientific observatory and planetarium in Jackson and what benefits to the community this would all entail. The presentation begins at 6pm in Side B of the Teton County Library Auditorium.

Refreshments will be provided beginning at 5:30pm through a generous sponsorship from Quizno’s. 

Looking forward to seeing you there!