Wild About Utah: Dark Sky Places
Chances are that if you step outside your front door at night and look up, you can get a pretty good view of the night sky. Even if you live in a bigger city or town, a short journey by car, bike, or foot can usually get you to some amazing stargazing places. And that’s because you live in a wonderfully wild place called Utah.
We are lucky to be able to experience natural darkness in so many places around Utah. Over 99% of all people in industrialized nations today live under light-polluted skies, and two-thirds of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their homes. But in Utah, we have the darkest skies on average out of any state in the lower 48, and the recognition for these pristine conditions has reached international levels. The world’s first dark sky park was designated right here in Utah at Natural Bridges National Monument. In fact, with 18 official certified dark sky places, Utah has the highest concentration Internationally recognized dark sky places in the entire world.
More and more, we are recognizing how important natural darkness is to our natural and human communities. Wildlife depends on natural darkness for their survival, and light pollution can interfere with reproduction, migration, and even predator avoidance for some wildlife species. For humans, increased light pollution can interrupt sleep patterns, interfere with immune responses, and increase risk for obesity. Naturally dark skies can contribute to positive experiences for people outdoors as well, like an experience of awe.
So next time you want to head outdoors to connect with the natural world, consider going somewhere at night. If you want to visit a designated dark sky area, jump online and search “Utah dark sky parks” and plan a trip. Who knows? Maybe you will even get a better night sleep and reduce your stress.