Great article in the Duluth News Tribune

The Milky Way and three bright stars of the Summer Triangle stand out in dark, light-pollution-free skies well north of Duluth. Within and near the city, lights can make it difficult to see the stars well. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com

The starry sky will take center stage at a new event in the Northland this fall that organizers hope will become an annual event celebrating something the region has in abundance: dark night skies with a minimum of light pollution.

"Celebrate the Night Sky" will feature a week of activities and events, including neighborhood star parties, a seminar with national experts discussing light pollution, and a presentation of the Skyglow Project that documents dark skies and light pollution. Starry Skies Lake Superior, the local chapter of the International Dark Sky Association, announced on Tuesday that it's hosting the celebration Sept. 17-23 to raise awareness about reducing light pollution. Chapter President Cindy Hakala said they would like to make it an annual event in the region.

An estimated 80 percent of people in the United States can't see the Milky Way, said event coordinator Randy Larson. With millions of acres of parks and forests in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin, the group is hoping to make Duluth and the Northland an "astro-destination," he said.

"To me, it's giving back to future generations. This is something to provide here," Larson said.

Hakala said the region is in a key position to draw people looking for dark skies.

"We're within a day's ride from a huge metropolitan population in St. Paul and Minneapolis and most people don't have anywhere near this much access to dark skies, let alone in a day's drive," Hakala said.

The purpose of the week is partly to educate people about technology — such as LED lights — that is creating light pollution and what organizers called "sky trespassing."

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"Sky trespass is this idea that if you have a big enough dome of light, you're impinging upon access to the sky for others," Hakala said.

Sky trespassing isn't a commonly used phrase, but it's why they're going regional with the event, she said. Duluth can't be alone in focusing on the issue because Superior is right next door, and it would be meaningless for Duluth to focus on lessening its light impact if the Twin Cities' dome of light became so large it began to infringe on the Twin Ports' sky, she said.

Larson added, "As we become lighter and lighter in metropolitan areas, the darkness becomes more valuable."

The week will kick off with the presentation of the Skyglow Project on Sept. 17. Two filmmakers, Harun Mehmedinovic and Gavin Heffernan, spent four years creating time-lapse videos of the darkest night skies and documenting the effects light pollution has on humans and the environment.

Mehmedinovic and Heffernan also will be among the presenters at an all-day seminar on Sept. 21 that is for both professionals and the general public. The seminar will cover lighting options, human and ecological health, and cultural values connected with being able to see the stars.

In addition to the filmmakers, other seminar presenters include Paul Bogard, author of "The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light"; Laura Erickson, an expert on bird physiology and habitat requirements that support healthy ecosystems; Shadab A. Rahman, a Harvard Medical School instructor and neurologist researching sleep and circadian neurophysiology; Bob King, the News Tribune's photo editor who pens the "Astro Bob" blog and is author of "Night Sky with the Naked Eye"; Jeremy White, a National Park Service physical scientist who performs night sky quality assessments; and Chris Monrad, a lighting engineer and former International Dark Sky Association Board member.

Hakala said they also are planning community events such as storytelling with music. The Arrowhead Astronomical Society will be out with telescopes at neighborhood star parties — though neighborhoods can host star parties without telescopes, too, she said.

For more information, visit www.starryskiesls.org.

Cynthia Lapp