Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Virginia high school student wins IDA Rising Star Award!

Before she had even begun her sophomore year of high school, Lora Callahan was shepherding James River State Park toward application for Dark Sky Park certification through collaboration with park staff, hands-on work, education, and advocacy. In November IDA awarded Lora with one of two Rising Star awards (you can read about all award winners here.)

IDA published the follow summary of why Lora is a Rising Star: 

We proudly honor Lora Callahan, a high school student from Lynchburg, VA, who has become the kind of dark skies champion and advocate to which we all aspire.  An outdoor enthusiast and veteran Girl Scout who intends to visit all of Virginia’s 37 state parks, Lora teamed up with the James River State Park volunteer coordinator to pursue an IDA Dark Sky Park certification for the Park.  Since then she has volunteered more than 100 hours toward the effort, far exceeding the 80-hour requirement of the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award.  Lora and friends hand-built and installed 35 wooden shields for the exterior lights in the Park’s cabin area, conducted extensive night sky readings that were submitted to IDA, conducted a lighting inventory of the entire park and its facilities, changed bulbs to lower intensities, installed and set timers, replaced some fixtures with FSA approved designs, and disconnecting unnecessary lights including antiquated ‘dusk to dawn’ post lights within view of the riverside campground.  This past June Lora spent a weekend assisting with dark sky-focused interpretive programs and she continues to keep up with outreach to surrounding communities and regional astronomy clubs to build support and attract more partners for ongoing program development.  Not only have Lora’s ongoing efforts made James River State Park an ideal place to view the night sky and experience the natural night, she has brought valuable public attention to the cause of night sky conservation and responsible lighting practices while continuing to elevate dark skies as a priority for the Virginia State Parks.  We are fortunate to have Lora Callahan on the side of dark skies in Virginia and IDA can only benefit from her leadership and its full potential.

Monday, November 28, 2016

More Support for Night Sky Conservation in SW Virginia

Wise County dark sky defenders are leading the latest effort to conserve Virginia's rural night skies. The Roanoke Times recently ran this editorial: A Dark Sky Park for the Coalfields.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

See the Stars, Encounter the Night at James River State Park

My family and I recently went on a weekend camping trip in James River State Park, less than a two hour scenic drive west of Richmond in Buckingham County.  Sizing up my surroundings always includes a keen eye for any visible lighting and I quickly noted a couple aging dusk-to-dawn "yard lights" behind our riverside campground, at the base of the foothills.  Usually this would be cause for consternation and anxiousness, but I had a hunch those lights would not come on as darkness fell and I was right.  Why? They'd been decommissioned as part of JRSP's plans to become Virginia's second IDA-certified Dark Sky Park.

What is most delightfully notable about JRSP's lighting is the absence of it. No mast lights at all. DIY-shielded cabin lights. Full cut off wallpacks elsewhere. Motion-sensor lighting on the LEED Gold-certified Visitor's Center. And not a glaring, blue-white, high-Color Correlated Color Temperature fixture to be found. Bliss!  Our second evening we headed to the hilltop Visitor Center for an astronomy program compliments of Crewe Astronomy Club. The skies did not cooperate much, but the moon was waxing and we got the kind of close-up view of its features that will give you goosebumps plus some peekaboo appearances from planets and constellations as the clouds broke up.

We have two amazing people to thank for natural night reigning over James River State Park and opportunities to explore the celestial realm with the help of serious telescopes and their enthusiastic owners:  park volunteer coordinator Jennifer Jones and high school student and Girl Scout extraordinaire Lora Callahan.  Read more about them and their work toward Dark Sky Park certification in this recent Roanoke Times Editorial.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Winchester and Rappahannock events in April

Thursday, April 7th, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Dark Sky Panel Discussion at the Winchester Book Gallery
Winchester, VA

Friday, April 22nd, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night and Laura Greenleaf, Va. chapter IDA at The Theatre in Little Washington, sponsored by Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection

JMU's Starry Nights Coming Up!

From Dr. Shanil Virani, director of the John C. Wells Planetarium 
at James Madison University
Starry Nights

By 2025 true darkness will have disappeared from skies. Is that our legacy? Can we light our campus better? #JMU2025 is an advocacy campaign to eliminate light pollution on JMU's campus spearheaded by students taking ENVT 400, a capstone course in light pollution co-taught by JMU English Professor Dr. Paul Bogard and John C. Wells Planetarium Director Shanil Virani. Our plan will improve campus safety, conserve energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, save money, improve the beauty of the nocturnal campus, help JMU achieve its goal of being an engaged neighbor in its surrounding community, and equip JMU to become a national model of how to light a University campus in the 21st century.
Students in ENVT 400 are excited to present their semester-long research on light pollution and propose a solution that benefits our entire community. We would like to extend a personal invitation for you to attend our final capstone presentation entitled #JMU2025 on March 31 in Harrison 1261 at 7pm.
Other events that are part of our Starry Nights 2016 are:

Wednesday, March 30, 7:30 -- 9:30 pm
Screening of the award-winning documentary “The City Dark”. Before the film, Starry Nights creators Dr. Paul Bogard and Planetarium Director Shanil Virani will introduce the week and its events. Anthony Seeger Auditorium, James Madison University 

Thursday, March 31, 7:00 -- 8:30 pm
#JMU2025: Reimagining Campus Lighting Simulations of light pollution growth in the USA suggest by 2025 darkness will have disappeared from skies forever more. Is that our legacy? How can we light a campus that improves safety & security but is cost effective, efficient, and environmentally friendly? 10 JMU students taking ENVT 400 present how they would light their campus by 2025. Harrison Hall, Room 1261, James Madison University
Friday, April 1, 7:00 -- 9:00 pm
Edith J. Carrier Arboretum: Partnering with the John C. Wells Planetarium, the Headwaters Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists, the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum offer a free dark sky program. Come to enjoy a walk in the woods to explore  nature at night. The evening will start at the Frances Plecker Education Center.  Parking is limited so please consider carpooling.

Friday, April 1, 8:00 -- 10:00 pm
Public Star Party At JMU's Astronomy Park: public telescope observing on JMU's East Campus. Come see Jupiter, binary stars, and laser guided tour of the Valley sky! Visitors will also get a first-hand look of what light pollution looks like on JMU's campus.

Saturday, April 2, 8:00 -- 11:00 pm
Astrophotography & Star Party: The last event of Starry Nights 2016 will take place at Shenandoah National Park. The brightening of the night sky is not just limited to urban environments as the glow from cities now intrudes and disturbs the environments protected by our national parks. Join us for a workshop on astrophotography with acclaimed astrophotographer Daniel Stein and public star party at Big Meadow! Byrd Visitor Center, Shenandoah National Park

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dark Sky Movement has Virginia Roots

Over 40 years ago Lexington native Kurt Riegel  published in Science a seminal paper on light pollution, its impact to astronomy, and measures for limiting its expansion.  You can reach a PDF of the paper here.  Through its publishing Riegel connected with astronomer David Crawford who went on to co-found the International Dark-Sky Association in 1988.  Had leaders and communities heeded Riegel's recommendations with local, state, and national policies and practices, chances are the Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness would look very different..

Alleghany Highlands May Pioneer Virginia Dark-Sky Tourism

In October, the Valley Conservation Council sponsored a Dark-Sky Summit at Douthat State Park in Bath County, hosting 30 local leaders from the Alleghany-Highland region to discuss the potential for becoming a dark-sky destination and joining the ranks of astro-tourism locations throughout the world.
Op/ed coverage of this watershed event:

Roanoke Times Editorial "Virginia's Dark Sky Country"
Virginia IDA's Laura Greenleaf in response.

Roanoke Times Editorial Dark Skies on "Christmas Wish List"
In response, local resident points out that pointlessly overlit highway exits contradict dark sky goal.