Stargazers are flocking to these neighboring towns in Colorado that have traded streetlights for starlight.
We are losing the nighttime sky, an invaluable resource that has inspired musing and wonder like few other natural phenomena. And as our cities grow bigger and our suburbs continue to creep and crawl, it's only getting worse. “We’ve got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way,” says Chris Elvidge, from the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Boulder, Colorado. “It’s a big part of our connection to the cosmos – and it’s been lost.”
But if it's up to the residents of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, two small towns in western Colorado that comprise Wet Mountain Valley, the great night sky will not be lost. After some 15 years of hard work, they're finally seeing the light. And in fact, they boast some of the darkest skies on the planet, luring in stargazers from near and far to feast on the delights of pitch dark heavens studded with stars.
In their (approved) application to become Colorado's first designated International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) community, they decribe their work as "a long 15-year process to change the mindsets of these old western communities from one of 'Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do' to 'How can we protect our beautiful Wet Mountain Valley’s rural charm from being lost to big-city problems like light pollution?'"
In this short film, you can see the towns' journey as well as their rewards: Modified streetlights and stars for miles. For while we may be losing the nighttime sky, it is a magnificently forgiving resource and is willing to jump back into the game, we just have to turn off the lights.