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University Of Utah Museum Recognized With Dark Skies Award

Dana Sohm
Natural History Museum of Utah
Natural History Museum of Utah at Night

There’s something primal about gazing at the stars on a dark clear night. Something ancient, powerful and romantic. However, there are some people that just don’t get to share in that experience anymore.

“There are so many kids that have never seen the Milky Way because they live in urban or suburban areas where there’s so much light reflected in the sky that maybe they see Venus, maybe they see Orion’s Belt, but they rarely see the Big Dipper, and they never see the Milky Way,” said Sarah George of the Natural History Museum of Utah.

The museum was recently recognized by the International Dark Skies Association with their Lighting Design Award. A hundred years ago, anyone could just look up at night and see the celestial bodies with clarity, but as neighborhoods gained electricity, many lost their stars. But there are ways to design buildings and exterior lighting to get the best of both worlds.

“So we do things like shield the light so that they’re shedding light on the ground where we need it, but not scattering it beyond where we need it, and we’re not reflecting light up into the sky,” said Sarah George.

The lighting design of the Natural History Museum is so effective that they host the public on Wednesday nights for stargazing. This is the first Utah building to be built in this way, but it probably won’t be the last. The University of Utah has begun the Consortium for Dark Skies Studies in collaboration with 25 academic and industry partners to preserve dark skies around the world.