Seeing the Night Sky
Keywords: Education, Thematic Atlas, Dark Skies
Abstract. Clear, dark night skies are harder to see now than ever before, and it will only become more difficult as people continue to move into heavily light polluted and expanding urban areas. Dark Sky Parks offer a place where anyone can go to experience true dark skies, observing the stars and other celestial bodies in conditions unencumbered by artificial light and other sources of pollution. An atlas of these Dark Sky Parks will raise awareness about their existence and locations with the goal of education and outreach. Observatories may be utilized with a similar outcome; however, they need to be located in close proximity to large populations but far enough away to optimize dark skies. This research presents an approach for mapping Dark Sky Parks in the United States through the ongoing production of Seeing the Night Sky: An Atlas of Dark Sky Parks, and a related GIS location optimization model to identify potential observatory locations in a defined study area based on land availability, slope, presence of water/floodplain, proximity to populated places, light pollution, elevation, and transportation infrastructure.