Friday, February 16, 2024

2023 Accomplishments for DarkSky Virginia


In 2023 the International Dark-Sky Association (or IDA) became DarkSky International, and the Virginia Chapter of IDA became DarkSky Virginia.  If you didn't notice, it's okay! It's true--we don't have a big, obvious presence. This is our website and we aren't on social media. We do not have independent 501(c)3 status or a board of directors. But that doesn't mean we aren't an active chapter. In our informal way, we are very active!  Here are some examples of our work in 2023: 

  • Five presentations by chapter representative Laura Greenleaf, in person and virtual, including at the Virginia Living Museum
  • Support for Virginia's five Dark Sky Parks
  • The launch of a Charlottesville-based local advocacy group, Dark Skies Piedmont (you can find them on Facebook)
  • Formation of a new regional chapter DarkSky NOVA
  • Delegate status for members in Staunton
  • Formal comment to Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission on outdoor lighting ordinance and resource support to local advocates
  • Advocacy for environmentally responsible outdoor lighting to the Science Museum of VA (see post below)
  • A published article by Genevieve de Messieres in Loudoun Wander magazine:
  • Support for Turner Farm Observatory's application as an Urban Dark Sky Place
  • Advocacy in Norfolk for a Lights Out campaign
  • Responses to all inquiries and requests for assistance

               . . . and more!

If you are not yet a member, please consider becoming a member of DarkSky. if you live in Virginia, when you join DarkSky International, you become a member of our Virginia chapter. And when you support DarkSky, you support our volunteer efforts here in Virginia because we rely on DarkSky's amazing staff and the resources they provide.  

Want to explore how you can help DarkSky Virginia? Please email Laura at

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Fairfax County a Leader with New Lighting Ordinance

As 2023 came to a close, Great Falls marked a milestone in responsible outdoor lighting policy and practice. Fairfax County's new observatory-centered lighting ordinance (an overlay district) is the result of nearly three years of efforts by dedicated advocates with the park authority and the Analemma Society as they pursue an Urban Night Sky Place designation with DarkSky International. 

Regulations Limit Light Pollution at Turner Farm Park Observatory (

Monday, August 7, 2023

Rappahannock County Advocates Are Vigilant Defenders of Rural Nights and Starry Skies

With three new business developments coming to the Town of Washington near Shenandoah National Park, Rappahannock County--home to Virginia's smallest Dark Sky Park--explores options for ensuring expanded outdoor lighting sticks to the Five Principles of Responsible Outdoor Lighting. Doing so will not only help protect the park's designation, it will benefit residents by preventing glare and light trespass and respecting the historical and architectural character of the town.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Science Museum of VA Lighting of The Green Far From "Green"

Richmond's Science Museum of Virginia Makes a Glaring Mistake

Removing asphalt and turning a two-acre parking lot into green space is a laudable project to mitigate polluted storm water runoff and the urban heat island effect.  But is it environmentally friendly if the area is then blanketed with all night lighting that fails all criteria of responsible outdoor lighting?

                                                                                                photo credit: Ken Wilson

The Science Museum of Virginia's description of The Green touts environmental and community benefits and depicts a tranquil setting--with no light poles in sight. But reality glaringly contradicts this vision.  Approximately 35 cylindrical fixtures--each producing light in all directions, not just onto the ground-- crowd the space.  And those intensely bright light sources far exceed the threshold of 2700Kelvin or even 3000Kelvin for Color Correlated Temperature.  A February 2022 submittal from HG Studio states that "the high-brightness, high-output white LEDs shall be 4000K nominal (2700K, 3000K or 5000K optional) correlated color temperature (CCT)".   

As a refresher, here are the basics of the science-based principles of responsible outdoor lighting developed in partnership by two science-based entities: the International Dark-Sky Association and the Illuminating Engineering Society, which sets standards for lighting applications: 

The Science Museum of Virginia (SMV) lighting of The Green fails on all counts: 

  • It is not clear what the purpose of the lights are since the area is not, as far as we know, intended for active public use all night long, every night.
  • The light from these cylindrical luminaires is certainly not targeted.  
  • The lumen output is, by design, "high brightness, high output". 
  • The lighting is not equipped with adaptive controls as the lights are on full power throughout the night. 
  • And the color, at 4000K, is cold even though 2700K and 3000K were options. 
                                                                                                       photo credit: Ken Wilson

The SMV lights produce glare and uplight, are a source of light clutter for the multi-modal Broad Street, and create ecological light pollution for the recently planted trees and any wildlife that might otherwise benefit from an urban green space. 

The SMV is home to the Richmond Astronomical Society, but the museum's leaders did not consult RAS about the project and have repeatedly rebuffed efforts by members to seek mitigation of the lighting's impacts. 

SMV leadership likewise has never responded to or acknowledged communication from Virginia IDA's chapter leader seeking dialogue about the lighting and partnership for this and future projects. 

It is deeply disappointing that a museum defined by science and public education, purportedly committed to environmental stewardship, cares so little about light pollution at a time when the Smithsonian Institution has just opened a major exhibition on light pollution and responsible lighting policy and practice.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

'tis the season for . . . light pollution?!

 We have come to associate excessive holiday lighting with the garish participants in "tacky light tours" every December.  But a winery in western Loudoun County has a new twist - a "lighting of the vines" that blasts the eastern Blue Ridge Mountains with sprawling glare visible from several miles away. 

"Agritourism" is supposed to help rural places stay rural, but in this case it has become an excuse to destroy the nighttime character of countryside that residents have been fighting for decades to keep country. According to publicity, 10,000 vines are lined with 15,000 lights . . . intensely bright white lights. And it is the intensity--and density--of this lighting that make it harmful. The lights are too bright, blue-white, and numerous over too large an area.  Unfortunately, exemptions in poorly written outdoor lighting ordinances allow for this kind of abuse of 'holiday (or seasonal) lighting' that otherwise should warm our hearts, rather than blind our eyes and despoil rural nightscapes. 

Loudoun County marketing seems a little bit ambivalent about the lighting, simultaneously bragging that the blazing vineyard can be seen for miles (note: visibility for miles is a checkbox for light pollution) while admitting it looks like something from a 'sci-fi movie', yet then praising the "glorious golden glow". Christmas Lights & Holiday Events in Loudoun County, VA 2022 (

Does this look like a "glorious golden glow" to you?  Is it seasonal or spiritual? Or just visible from space?

If you want to contact Bluemont Vineyard to encourage them to tone down their 'holiday lighting' next year, you can reach them here. Fewer lights of warmer color and lower lumens for shorter periods of time would make a big difference. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Light Pollution Does Not Respect County Boundaries

Hundreds of acres in Culpeper County have fallen to bulldozers to make way for hundreds of big unaffordable houses plus commercial development.  The latest incursion of suburban sprawl into the once rural northern Piedmont threatens Rappahannock's efforts to steward its night skies. Rappahannock’s dark sky protectors worry as development marches west | News |

Fairfax County to Improve Lighting Regs for Proposed DSP

 Fairfax County zoning staff are drafting a new ordinance to create a lighting overlay district for a county park that has been pursuing an Urban Dark Sky Park designation.  This article highlights community disputes over lighting requirements, but it leaves out a critical aspect of the "property rights" argument: the right of residents to not have light trespass and glare inflicted on them by neighbors.  Everyone has the right to light their own property--not someone else's.  The negative impact of neighbor's excessive outdoor lighting on quality of life is the number one reason Virginians contact our chapter.