Things Unseen – Tracking Dark Skies

Things Unseen is a special series of posts to get you and the people where you live thinking about the unseen or under-appreciated wonders of the natural world and what lies beyond.  It is April 2020, and the world has become a very different place as a tiny virus makes its way across the planet.  At a time such as this, we are sobered and humbled by the fact that this vast universe holds much that is far beyond our understanding and certainly our control. Perhaps we are meant to enjoy and ponder it more, as well as the things that really matter in this life.. things unseen.  Just a thought. What do you think? 

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Scottsdale, AZAs the Valley of the Sun has grown to a sprawling, sun-drenched metropolis, we are quietly losing our magnificent and unique dark skies.  The Grand Canyon state has been a magnet for professional and amateur astronomers for over a century, yet places in which to view the wonders of the universe with the naked eye are dwindling. City lights that shine 24/7 create what scientists call “light pollution” and can begin to obscure what lies above us. Light pollution also impacts wildlife, like migrating birds, as well as human health. The impact of artificial light is a very interesting study in itself. Artificial Light and Health

There are still many places in Arizona where you can experience a truly black night sky.  The International Dark Sky Association based in Tucson provides a wealth of information about the benefits of our night skies, as well as lists of locations throughout the world where dark skies prevail.

Oracle State Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Wupatki National Monumentand Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument are four designated “dark sky” parks in Arizona, and many towns strive to minimize unnecessary light. The area to the east of Phoenix and Scottsdale still offers some amazing sky gazing opportunities, especially during a new moon.

Image by Robert Karkowski from Pixabay

Consult an astronomical calendar to track the steady supply of free celestial shows right over your head. These events can often be enjoyed without leaving home and require nothing but eyes to see and a mind to wonder.  Look for new moons, which is a kind of lunar reset button when the moon is on the same side of the earth as the sun so isn’t visible. New moon nights are the best nights to get out and search for constellations, planets and even galaxies. A good pair of binoculars help, but to start, just scan the sky for patterns and objects. Phone apps like Skyview, Night Sky, or Night Sky Tools can help you identify the constellations and names of the heavenly bodies.

Enjoy tracking the night sky, the moon and its phases throughout the month.  Be sure to calendar upcoming sky events. When you track wonder overhead, be prepared to feel small yet deliciously overwhelmed by a special flavor of wonder.

WT LogoCultivate Wonder… Discover Design

(c) SPegany
Now faith is a well-grounded assurance of that for which we hope, and a conviction of the reality of things which we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Images: Header by skeeze (Pixabay), Desert Sky by skeeze (Pixabay), Moon by Robert Karkowski (Pixabay) Sunset by SPegany

References and Resources

International Dark Sky Association

Arizona Republic – Where are the Darkest Places in Arizona?

timeanddate.com – Where is the Moon? (in real time)

Artificial Light and Health  Understand how artificial light can impact health and learn out to set your devices to minimize blue light at night.

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