Via AstroDyke I read an article in the New York Times about astronomy communities being built around the country in places like Arizona, Georgia, and Florida. These are towns founded and lived in by people who want clear, dark skies, so they have established these communities in places where there are no city lights to interfere with nature’s glory.
I’ve been reading about these places for some time, and I think it’s great. It’s too bad our well-lit civilization has forced astronomers to do this, but it’s great to see people taking this issue into their own hands. This is a natural extension of dark sky star parties, events where astronomers gather to have fun during the day and observe at night. I love star parties. I’ve been to several (though not the biggies yet – Texas and Nebraska– although, hmmmmm, it’s only a six hour drive for me now) and the sense of community, fun, and love of the sky is so refreshing and energizing. Plus: big ‘scopes! Woohoo! I would never have the chance otherwise to peer through an 18” Obsession fitted with an [OIII] filter (lust lust lust); years ago I used one to observe the Veil nebula, the twisted and filamentary remains of a star that exploded long ago. To call it spectacular is to seriously insult the view: it was like a white rag, twisted and curved, set against the night sky.
It took three things to get that view: a big ‘scope which can swallow a lot of light; the filter, which let through light from the hot but ethereally thin supernova gas but blocked much of the sky glow; and a dark sky to start with.
I may never live in one of those communities, but it’s good to know that others are, and care enough to set them up and maintain them.