Thursday, August 25, 2016

International Dark-Sky Parks: Part of National Park Service Centennial

Owachomo Bridge with the Milky Way overhead
In 2006, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah was designated as the world's first International Dark-Sky Park. This photograph shows the night sky at Owachomo Bridge. August 25 marks the centennial of America's National Park Service.
(Image Source: National Park Service; Photographer: Jacob W. Frank)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Today (2016 August 25) marks the centennial of America's National Park Service. And, since 2006, several National Parks have been designated International Dark-Sky Parks by the International Dark-Sky Association.

What became the world's first designated National Parks has been described as “America's Best Idea,” in the 2009 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) historical, television documentary series produced by Ken Burns. Although, U.S. National Parks date long before the National Park Service was formed.

The earliest versions of National Parks were the Hot Springs, Arkansas Reservation created by the U.S. Congress in 1832 and the Congressional ceding of the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (Yosemite Grant) to the State of California as a State Park for "public use, resort, and recreation" in 1864. The smallest National Park by area, Hot Springs became an official National Park in 1921. Yosemite was designated a National Park in 1890, but it did not come under Federal control until U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (influenced by Sierra Club Founder John Muir) signed a Congressional bill taking control from California in 1906.

Yellowstone National Park became the first official National Park in 1872. Yellowstone is considered the world's first National Park, even though national nature preserves had been established earlier in Germany (Drachenfels:1822) and France (Forest of Fontainebleau: 1861).

Federal control of Yellowstone was necessary from the beginning, Unlike Yosemite, no state existed where the Yellowstone National Park was formed, only a Federally-governed territory. Yellowstone's boundaries are within parts of three states, which did not join the Union until 1889-1890: Wyoming (1890), Montana (1889), and Idaho (1890).

It was not until the U.S. Department of the Interior had accumulated 39 national parks and monuments that Congress formed the National Park Service, within the Department, to administer parks and monuments in a comprehensive way. On 1916 August 25, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed-into-law the National Park Service Organic Act.

Today, of the 412 sites managed by the National Park Service, only 59 carry the designation of “National Park.” Other sites have the designations of National Monuments, National Historical Sites and Parks, National Natural Landmarks, National Wildlife Preservation Areas, and Marine Protected Areas. Completely separate from the National Park Service are National Forests, managed by the U.S. Forest Service (established in 1891) which is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Throughout the later half of the 19th century and through the 20th century, National Parks have been dedicated to preserving wilderness and natural eco-systems, sites of historical, cultural, natural, scientific, and educational importance, and areas to protect wildlife. However, with increasing national and world populations, and the greater urbanization of these populations, it became increasingly evident that a new preservation was needed---to preserve dark skies due to increased light pollution.

Outdoor lighting at night, that is not properly shielded, can cause excess light to escape into the sky causing sky-glow, which brightens the sky (which does not need brightened) and drowns-out the dimmer celestial objects. Additionally, this wastes light energy which could be better used on the ground.

Excess light entering the eyes causes eye-glare, which makes driving, cycling, or even walking, more difficult. This also narrows eye pupils, greatly limiting night vision, making it even more difficult to see dim objects in the night sky.

Light pollution in most major cities, today, make it difficult to observe anything but the Moon, planets, and the brightest stars. And, since the constellations consist of both bright and dim stars, it is becoming ever more difficult to make-out constellations with the naked-eye from urban areas, since many of the dimmer stars seem to be missing from where a constellation should be found.

This light pollution also makes astronomical observatories located within major cities less usable for astronomical research. Most of these observatories are very historic, as they were built in the 19th or early 20th centuries, before light pollution became a problem. However, for cutting-edge astronomical research to continue, money has to be spent to build new observatories in remote locations away from urban areas, or launched into Outer Space.

In 2001, the International Dark-Sky Association, which had been established in 1988, started an International Dark-Sky Places program "to protect locations of exceptional nighttime visages for future generations." This program includes three categories of International Dark-Sky Places: International Dark-Sky Parks, International Dark-Sky Reserves, and International Dark-Sky Communities.

Flagstaff, Arizona became the first International Dark-Sky Community in 2001. Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah became the first International Dark-Sky Park in 2006. The Reserve at Mont-Megantic in Quebec, Canada became the first International Dark-Sky Reserve in 2008; thus far, all International Dark-Sky Reserves are located outside of the United States.

Presently, there are seven U.S. National Parks and National Monuments which have been designated as International Dark-Sky Parks:

Special Note: To celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, all National Parks will offer free-of-charge admission this weekend, including this Thursday and Friday --- Thursday through Sunday: 2016 August 25 through August 28, and also on 2016 September 24 and on 2016 November 11.
AND, all children attending school in the fourth grade can obtain a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program!
PLUS, Active-Duty Military Members and Citizens with a Permanent Disability can also obtain free passes to National Parks.
More Info - Link >>> https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

International Dark-Sky Parks:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Dark-Sky_Association#International_Dark_Sky_Parks

International Dark-Sky Association:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Dark-Sky_Association

National Park Service ---
Link 1 >>> https://www.nps.gov/
Link 2 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Park_Service
National Park Service History: Link >>> https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/history.htm

National Park Service Centennial ---
Link 1 >>> https://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/index.htm
Link 2 >>> http://www.nationalparks.org/our-work/celebrating-100-years-service

Grand Canyon Receives Provisional Status, in 2016 June, as an International Dark-Sky Park:
Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/08/astronomical-calendar-2016-august.html

The National Parks: America's Best Idea - 2009 PBS Documentary:
Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_National_Parks:_America%27s_Best_Idea

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 Aug. 25.


                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/01/astronomical-calendar-2016-january.html

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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
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Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
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* Public Transit:
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