March 13, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Comet pan-STARRS Within View

In Santa Fe it is possible to see stars and other night sky features that the average American may never have seen

By Karen Denison

At Home Outdoors

Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service, a former biologist, and a shameless admirer of the outdoors.

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Crescent moon and comet pan-STARRS Photo: Courtesy of Terry Taddeucci, taken from Frank Ortiz Park, Santa Fe, March 12, 2013

Although the quality of sunlight and the clarity of the daytime skies are what most people notice about our area, the nighttime skies are just as remarkable. 

On a visit to remote Argentina a few years ago, my husband and I were treated to the night skies of the southern hemisphere. The stars were bright, numerous and for us shockingly unfamiliar in their patterns.

But what wasn't so unfamiliar was the clarity of the sky. Even here in Santa Fe, within minutes of downtown, it is possible to see stars and other night sky features that the average American may never have seen because of pollution either by chemicals or lights. Most folks in the U.S., for instance, have never seen the Milky Way. But for us here in northern New Mexico, it shines brightly. At least for the time being....

Light pollution is eating away at our dark night skies. Almost every street light and every porch light spreads light upward as well as where it was intended. This nibbles away at our ability to see the skies.

There are measures in place to help protect our views, and you can do your part, too. Before you install your next outdoor light, please check the links to find night-sky-friendly lighting guidelines.

http://sfct.org/skies/dark-skies-resources

And be sure to look up the next time you're outside on a clear night!

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