Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Night Skies of the World

Images pulled from The Night Sky in the World website, The World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness.

Light Pollution Worldwide

North America

South America



West Asia

Central Asia

East Asia


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Natural Sounds Worth Protecting

Featured below are some natural sounds, collected from the acoustic monitoring project by the United States National Parks Service.

Bald Eagle

Canada Geese


Humpback Whale



In contrast, here are some anthropogenic, or human-caused noises.



Chain Saw


Special thanks to the National Parks Service: Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, and Wikimedia Commons for the use of the sound library.

Underwater Noise: The Overlooked Catastrophe

Underwater Noise – The Overlooked Catastrophe. from OceanCare on Vimeo.

While many of us are affected by the effects of masking, where loud noises such as traffic, music, or aircraft overflights interrupt our conversations, but what about the sounds we don't hear? Most of us are not familiar with the effects of noise underwater, where air guns, sonar, and shipping can reduce and even decimate the marine environment.

Seismic air guns, one major contributor to underwater noise, have been measured to produce sounds at 190 dB. Compared to a jet takeoff at 140 dB? This is unheard of in the human environment, and not just because you can't hear it. Even the Krakatoa eruption, which was heard nearly 3,000 miles away, was only 180 dB! Try talking over that!

Protect marine wildlife. Join the movement today at

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Strange Scourge of Light Pollution

Light pollution is all around usin our cities, in our skies, even in our eyes. Neon signs blaring with messages trying to catch our attention, headlights shining in your rear-view mirror, street lamps with a glare that goes for miles. Why is all this light necessary? Truth be told, it isn't. Much of the light around you is going to waste, dispersed into the sky where it doesn't do any good. In fact, it does quite a bit of damage. Many animals, including birds, bats, and sea turtles, rely on dark skies to orient themselves and often move toward light sources which are artificial, not natural. 

The International Dark-Sky Association, or IDA, is one of many organizations facilitating a transition toward an environment-friendly, economy-friendly skyscape. The installation of IDA-approved light fixtures can save millions of dollars per year, not to mention improving the stargazing opportunities and protecting otherwise vulnerable wildlife. In contrast with other types of pollution, such as noise pollution, it is much easier to adjust policy and practice in such a way that light pollution can be significantly reduced. Get involved with your community, send them to the IDA, and save money while saving the skies.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Noise Pollution: An Infographic

Special thanks to ZocDoc for providing this infographic on noise pollution. As noise pollution becomes more prevalent, hopefully we will start to see more political action moving toward the protection of natural soundscapes and the environments they are critical to. As for now, this should illustrate the impact noise is having on your life, and what you can do to protect against it.
health benefits of pets

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What is a Soundscape?

Soundscapes consist of natural sounds as well as noises (unwanted sounds) present in an environment. This includes weather, animals, running water, geological shifts and other natural sounds, in addition to the anthropogenic, or man-made noise caused by machinery, motor vehicles, and airplanes.

Soundscapes are unique in that they are defined according to what is heard. For instance, when jet overflights mask the sound of chirping crickets, the crickets are removed from the soundscape until they are once again audible. This also means that the soundscape varies by location, with short movements within an environment sometimes drastically altering the perceptible sounds.

As noise pollution becomes more prevalent, masking reduces the area in which natural sounds can be heard. The results for animals include mating calls being less likely to be heard, decreased capacity to avoid predators, and a lowered sensitivity to the territory of other animals.

For visitors to natural environments, such as National Parks. the acoustic environment or soundscape is an important motivation. Noisy streets and the bustle of everyday life can quickly become overwhelming, and visits to natural locations have been shown to reduce stress levels and improve focus.

For more information on soundscapes, noise pollution and its impact on wildlife, visit

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dark Skies Utah

Dark Skies of Utah - a Collaborative Film from Ron Risman on Vimeo.

Utah, United States—one of the best places in North America for outdoor adventures, and especially for stargazing. With five National Parks, it is well-known for true wilderness experience.

The wilderness isn't all that contributes to the night sky experience you can have. Many cities such as Kayenta and Eagle Mountain have or are considering light ordinances which protect the natural dark skies. Steps are being taken, as the population grows, to preserve the night sky for generations to come.

Natural Bridges National Park, featured in the above film, has been named the first official "Dark-Sky Park" in the United States by the International Dark Sky Association. This kind of protection for the night skies has become a tourist draw for the park, and they now offer night hikes for those wishing to explore a view which many in our light-polluted society may never see.

The sight of the Milky Way doesn't need to be foreign. Even though only 1/3 of U.S. residents can see it, the stars haven't gone anywhere, and you don't need to travel to see them. Make a push for dark skies in your community. It can be more than Dark Skies Utah—it can be a Dark Skies World.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Southern Utah Night Skies


This post was written by Keith Howells of Howells Outdoors.  For more trip reviews, gear reviews and more, visit or follow Howells Outdoors on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

  “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature and Selected Essays.

Why is camping in southern Utah so great? The night sky does not disappoint. EVER! The remoteness of the area cuts the light pollution down to almost nothing, and that means the stars shine. In many of these areas the Milky Way can be seen in full view and striking beauty.

Get out of the cities and see the stars.
Here are several great places to view the night sky when visiting Utah:

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - High Plateaus
This area of possibly the most controversial monument is located east of Kanab, UT. It stretches from the Utah/Arizona north to the Bryce Canyon National Park boundary. This is the land I grew up in.

I worked for a wilderness therapy program that was out on GSENM. We backpacked for weeks in the land. It was great to have kids come from large cities across the United States and the first night they were out there see the stars.
“Wow, I could never have imagined a view like that,” is a common statement they would say about the stars and Milky Way.
If you’re ever in southern Utah, I suggest camping in the Grand Staircase for a night.

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Escalante Canyons
Now I know this and the last one are both on the GSENM, but it is a huge area and to travel between the two areas is actually a long ways to go.
There are amazing places to see in this area. Here some of the sites you can see while you are there: Camping along the Hole in the Rock Road.
I have taken several Southern Utah University courses, as well as personal trips to come out here. There are AMAZING night skies and solitude out here. When you have little light pollution, you have peace of mind. 

Cedar Breaks National Monument
Located just east of Cedar City, this NPS monument is probably the easiest to visit, but that means it is also the most at risk of losing a beautiful night sky.
Take a drive from Cedar City up US-Highway 14 to reach this area. You’ll be happy you did.

Cedar Mesa - southeast Utah
I lived in Bluff, UT over the 2014 summer. West of the town is a large area called Cedar Mesa and this place is fantastic for the night sky. Although the sky was amazing in the town of Bluff, getting out to places like Natural Bridges National Monument and Grand Gulch will change your understanding of what a night sky should look like.

To learn more about where to go outdoors, visit or follow Howells Outdoors on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.