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Dark Sky and Night Pollution

Dark, dark, dark. There are no really dark places around here. The darkest is probably inside Lookout Mountain at Ruby Falls when they turn off the lights. As Boy Scouts, we camped in some dark places, such as on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, but even in summer a good night's sleep was difficult because dew forms on the ground soaking everything.

The answer was to use a ground cloth of plastic or oiled canvas with a scratchy army surplus wool blanket on top of that, then roll yourself up until you were wrapped like a burrito.

It was possible to find a field far enough away from artificial light to have a clear view of the natural night sky.

On one of those camp outs we were sufficiently deep enough in the boonies that the stars looked like crystals of sugar on black velvet.

That night I found our Scoutmaster, curled up in the warm cab of his truck, and asked what all that light was. He revealed it to be the Milky Way. I went around with my flashlight awaking everyone, who turned on their lights, and that defeated the whole purpose.

In the South the night sky is obscured by trees and light pollution made by thousands of street lights, house lights, car lights; it accumulates, bounces off microscopic water vapor and our eyes never adjust to it.

Seeing the natural night sky is so rare that finding a true dark sky is the “new thing.” Many adults have never seen our edge of the Milky Way, but it is glorious. The edge of our galaxy is so rich and dense with stars, the sky looks like a cloud of light.

Naked eye stargazing has become a tourist draw in some states out west. Colorado and New Mexico promote night sky stargazing tourism.(Say that three times.)

You have to travel a bit to see the whole natural night sky. There are places where there simply are no trees and the sky is clear from horizon to horizon.

There are Dark Sky Parks, Reserves, Communities and Sanctuaries but few in the South.

The only certified Dark Sky Park in my state is still on the edge of the Okefenokee near Fargo at Stephen C. Foster State Park. It is a certified Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association.

My brother-in-law and I often slipped out of the house and drove on a little-used dirt road north of town near his grandfather's old place and have our 'brother talk' while watching the stars emerge.

There are a few places in Washington County, Kansas, where you can enjoy a “near” totally dark sky, but not even in the outskirts of beautiful downtown Enosdale.

Washington County may have an opportunity in dark sky tourism. I should suggest it to the mayor of Enosdale.

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