• This night skies Llano Rail-road bridge photo with the Milky Way visible was taken by Todd Grubbs.
  • Cliff Kaplan of the Hill Country Alliance discusses Dark Sky ordinance updates at the Second Annual Hill Country Dark Sky Conference on Friday, April 6 at the Hill Country University Center. The conference featured speakers from around the Hill Country region who shared their steps in becoming Dark Sky communities. — Standard-Radio Post/Erika Vela

'Lights Night Out' celebrates Llano's Dark Skies

Communities join initiative to eliminate light pollution

On Friday, April 13, Llano will join Mason, Fredericksburg and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in a regional partnership to “Turn on the Night.”

All four of these communities are in some of the last remaining dark night sky areas in Texas, closest to the major metropolitan areas of the state.

“By everyone turning off as many unnecessary and too-bright lights, we will be able to see more stars,” said Terry (Tex) Toler, event spokesman and City of Llano Main Street program manager.

The “Lights Out Night Out” initiative was conceived by Toler, also a board member of the Dark Night Sky Reserve organization formed last year.

On Friday night, April 13, the International Dark Sky Association is asking folks to turn off their outside lights between 8-10 p.m. “If enough folks do this, then this significant reduction of light pollution will allow for more stars to be visible,” Toler said. “The light pollution levels will be monitored to gauge the difference in the night skies.”

Toler was instrumental in implementing Llano’s Dark Night Sky Lighting Ordinance, passed by the City Council in 2015. The Llano ordinance can be found on the City of Llano website under the municipal code Article XII, Outdoor Lighting, section 22-700.

“Not only are we able to enjoy seeing the stars and constellations at night, but by avoiding unnecessary light pollution by careful planning and a few simple steps, Llano can attract tourists and travelers to our community who want to see the stars, but don’t want to drive all the way to Big Bend to see them,” Toler said.

The local effort kicks off International Dark Sky Week, which has grown to become a worldwide event and a key component of Global Astronomy Month. Each year it is held in April around Astronomy Day.

This year celebrations begin Sunday, April 15, and run through Saturday, April 21.

A Star Party will be held Friday night from 8-10 p.m., at the former Lady Jacket Softball field on Hog Pen Road.

“It will be an educational experience and fun way to learn from an experienced astronomer,” said Toler.

 

‘Night life’

The nighttime environment is a crucial natural resource for all life on Earth, but the glow of uncontrolled outdoor lighting has hidden the stars, radically changing the nighttime environment, Toler explained.

Before the advent of electric light in the 20th century, the pioneers experienced a night sky brimming with stars that inspired science, religion, philosophy, art and literature including some of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets.

The common heritage of a natural night sky is rapidly becoming unknown to the newest generations, Toler said. Millions of children across the globe will never see the Milky Way from their own homes.

“We are only just beginning to understand the negative repercussions of losing this natural resource,” he said. “A growing body of research suggests that the loss of the natural nighttime environment is causing serious harm to human health and the environment.”

For nocturnal animals in particular, the introduction of artificial light at night could very well be the most devastating change humans have made to their environment. Light pollution also has deleterious effects on other organisms such as migrating birds, sea turtle hatchlings, and insects.

Humans are not immune to the negative effects of light in their nighttime spaces. Excessive exposure to artificial light at night, particularly blue light, has been linked to increased risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes and breast cancer.

 

Simple steps

The good news is that light pollution is reversible and its solutions are immediate, simple and cost-effective.

Here are a few simple things people can do to confront the problem and take back the night:

• Check around home. Shield outdoor lighting, or at least angle it downward, to minimize “light trespass” beyond property lines.

• Use light only when and where needed. Motion detectors and timers can help. Use only the amount of light required for the task at hand.

• For more information, visit www.darksky.org

Fredericksburg Standard

P.O. Box 1639
Fredericksburg, TX 78624-4228
830-997-2155