Night Sky Advocacy

McDonald Observatory has been working with stakeholders across the region to establish the world's largest international dark sky reserve, a region committed to keeping night skies free of light pollution. 

Night Sky Advocacy

Those wishing to get involved with night sky advocacy have a couple of options through Big Bend Conservation Alliance. Night sky projects comprise a quarter of the nonprofit’s platform, with cultural, water, and land issues also making the list.

The group is actively raising funds to support McDonald Observatory’s efforts to establish an International Dark Sky Reserve in the Big Bend that includes four counties in Texas and parts of northern Mexico. That project requires broad participation of stakeholders in the region, from municipalities to parks, and has gained traction as cities and counties update their night sky ordinances to reflect support.

McDonald Observatory will be submitting an application to the International Dark Sky Association in October showing that the region fits the criteria for such a designation, and has the community support to back it up.

As a show of support, BBCA initiated Serious Starlight - Big Bend Dark Sky Reserve, a fundraiser available online through GoFundMe. It’s a tangible way to show that community members are willing to put dollars behind dark sky conservation efforts. BBCA will submit the tally to the observatory to be added to its application as a calculable measure of community commitment.

As of press time, the group was nearly halfway to its goal of raising $25,000, with a deadline of June 18.

Funds will be used to provide light shields throughout the region. Shielding lights is one of the most practical steps individuals and businesses can take to prevent light escape and sky glow at night.

The observatory recommends that light fixtures be shielded so the bulb or light source is not visible from above or from off the property. Lights should be aimed down, and the light source should have a color temperature of 2,700 Kelvins or less, a soft white or amber light. Finally, lights that are not in use, such as business signs or decorative lights, should be turned off, put on a timer to turn off automatically, or only activated temporarily with a motion sensor.

The fundraiser will help support these goals.

In addition to the fundraiser, Tri-County residents may participate in the Dark Skies Regional Working Group. The group meets every couple of months to discuss night sky issues, both problems to solutions. Details on how to volunteer are on the BBCA website.

Other night sky projects included a series of low light photography workshops BBCA hosted for high school students throughout the Big Bend, including Terlingua, Presidio, and Marfa. Student images from those workshops will be on display at Museum of the Big Bend during the At Night exhibition that opens June 11. The images will also be on display at the BBCA booth at Alpine's Artwalk this fall.

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