GLACIER’S DARK SKY PARK PROJECT
Glacier is inviting people from all over the world to explore our starry night skies
Shortly after the sun sets, Glacier National Park opens its window to the cosmos and blankets its iconic landscape with a canvas of stars. There’s no wonder why this International Dark Sky Park is becoming an increasingly popular destination for stargazers seeking a star filled night sky.
NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF AMERICANS ARE UNABLE TO SEE THE MILKY WAY FROM THEIR BACKYARD.
Sadly, most people around the world have very little opportunity to stargaze. In fact, according to the National Park Service, “Nearly two-thirds of Americans are unable to see the Milky Way from their backyard” (“Night Sky“, 2019). Researchers have confirmed if light pollution trends continue, by 2025 there will be almost no dark skies left in the United States.
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Experience the rareness of a Starry Night Sky at Glacier National Park.
If you are one of the many people who want to truly experience a dark night sky, Glacier is the destination for you. There are several ranger-led viewing events (and star parties!) hosted during the summer at the St. Mary, Logan Pass, and Apgar Visitor Centers. If you’re more interested in an independent star viewing experience, you can drive or bike Going-to-the-Sun Road at night or simply set up a telescope at Lake McDonald.
These night sky viewing opportunities are only made possible due to requirements set in place by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). Glacier, and many other Dark Sky Parks, have made a serious commitment to protecting the natural night sky from light pollution and raising awareness about dark skies as a critical natural resource.
How are Dark Sky Parks Combating the Harmful Effects of artificial light?
Outdoor artificial lights in cities around the world illuminate our night skies, making it impossible to see most stars in surrounding metropolitan areas. Artificial light also disrupts the natural cycles of plants and causes habitat disruption for many nocturnal species. This profoundly impacts wildlife because animals rely heavily on darkness to hunt, conceal their shelter, navigate, and reproduce. Unless light pollution issues are resolved, dark night skies within parks will continue to vanish.
Thanks to the International Dark Sky Association, both Glacier National Park and its sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada, have been designated as an International Dark Sky Park. This is the first IDA designation in the world to cross an international border, making it one of the best places for stargazing in North America.
The designation requires a long-term commitment to:
- Preservation or restoration of outstanding night skies.
- Protection of nocturnal habitat.
- Public enjoyment of the night sky and its heritage.
- Demonstrating environmental leadership on dark sky issues by communicating the importance of dark skies to the general public.
How is the Glacier Conservancy Protecting our Dark Sky Park from Light Pollution?
Generous donations to the Glacier Conservancy continue to fund numerous initiatives in Glacier’s “Half The Park Happens After Dark” program, including the construction and grand opening in 2019 of the brand new observation dome at the St. Mary Visitor Center.
Using groundbreaking remote technology, anyone from anywhere now has a chance to look through the lens of the new telescope here at Glacier. Therefore, giving researchers and classrooms from around the world an opportunity to explore Glacier’s incredible night skies.
The ongoing partnership between the Conservancy, Glacier National Park, the Big Sky Astronomy Club and other partners celebrates the wonders of astronomy in Waterton-Glacier, the world’s first designated International Dark Sky Park.
“The St. Mary Observatory is big news for the park, big news for visitors, and big news for astronomy. The partnership that we have is producing an amazing product that other parks are going to be interested in.”
— Lee Rademaker, Lead Interpreter Hudson Bay District, Glacier National Park
Through this program, thousands of park visitors, many of whom come from places where light pollution prevents viewing of the night sky, will experience both the science of the cosmos and the majesty of nature’s dark skies.
Your support helps our Dark Sky Park maintain a long-term commitment to preserving dark skies by funding the installation of dark sky compliant lighting throughout the park and the expansion of various astronomy education programs.
1. “Night Sky.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Oct. 2019, www.nps.gov/glac/learn/nature/night-sky.htm.
2. “Vanishing Night Skies: The Effects of Light Pollution on the National Park System.” National Parks Conservation Association, 1 Mar. 1999, www.npca.org/resources/3253-vanishing-night-skies-the-effects-of-light-pollution-on-the-national-park
3. “International Dark Sky Parks.” International Dark-Sky Association, 17 Dec. 2019, www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/parks/
4. Rademaker, Lee. Lead Interpreter Hudson Bay District, Glacier National Park. 2019