Telescopes ready: Dinosaur National Monument named Dark Sky Park with summer nighttime activities
Moffat County’s Dinosaur National Monument has been given a designation that could attract planet-watchers and star-finders from around the world.
In a news release Monday, the National Park Service announced Dinosaur National Monument is now officially an International Dark Sky Park — recognizing the skies above Dinosaur to have low light pollution ideal for sky watching and the community for actively protecting their dark skies for future visitors.
Dinosaur is now one of more than 100 areas given the designation based on “a rigorous application process that demonstrates robust community support for dark sky protection,” according to the news release.
“We are proud of this accomplishment,” says Dinosaur National Monument Superintendent Paul Scolari, in the news release. “And we’re committed to continuing to work with surrounding communities to uphold the high standard set by the IDA in order to protect the magnificence of the night sky in our region moving forward.”
Scolari took over as the new park superintendent in early March. He took the reins from Patrick Walsh, who was acting superintendent since the departure of Mark Foust. Foust left his post at Dinosaur National Monument in July to become superintendent of Buffalo National River in Arkansas.
Dinosaur is now the fifth internationally recognized Dark Sky Park in Colorado, and its location near US Highway 40 between Salt Lake City and Denver puts it within a day’s drive of millions of people who can no longer see the Milky Way from their backyards because of increased light pollution, the news release said.
“Visitors from around the world are finding that star filled skies at Dinosaur are often as novel and awe-inspiring as fossil filled rocks,” said Park Ranger Sonya Popelka. “Residents of rural areas and avid campers may have more experience with natural cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. Urban residents may find a stargazing program or guided night hike in a park setting to be their first experience with true darkness. Our goal is to invite everyone to learn about and enjoy the benefits of nights without too much artificial light. And, with a few simple tips for adopting night-sky friendly lighting in their own communities, they can bring that starry view home with them.”
The monument will have plenty of sky-watching opportunities this year, including:
• A tour of the sky from 9 to 10 p.m. May 4 outside the Quarry Exhibit Hall. Participate in dark sky measurements as citizen scientists, and evaluate different outdoor lighting options. Limited parking is available in the upper lot at the Quarry Exhibit Hall, overflow parking is available in lower lots.
• A stargazing program at the Gates of Lodore on June 8
• A full moon hike in Echo Park on June 17 to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the John Wesley Powell Expedition
• The regular line-up of night sky programs at Dinosaur from June 24 through September 13 includes Stargazing with Telescopes, Night Sky for the Naked Eye, Night Hikes Under Moonlight, and the annual Skies Over Dinosaur Astronomy Festival. Details for these and other programs can be found on the Guided Tours and Calendar of Events pages on the monument’s website http://www.nps.gov/dino.
“Our ranger staff is developing a terrific program lineup” Scolari said. “So, when the sun starts to scorch, come out to Dinosaur on a cool night and check out the marvels the sky has to offer.”
A learn-by-doing methodology was on display Friday at the Loudy-Simpson Park pond as Moffat County High School science students learned quickly whether or not they had a future in engineering.