Dark Sky Week resolution highlights ‘awe-inspiring’ skies above Virginia

Dark Sky Week resolution highlights 'awe-inspiring' skies above Virginia

Gazing at twinkling stars against a dark sky is one of life’s simple pleasures — now Virginians will have a yearly reminder that light pollution can compromise the Commonwealth’s starry, starry nights.

“We need to take a moment to be able to recognize that the light pollution we have around us, prevents us from being able to see the awe-inspiring nature of the starry sky above us,” Del. David Reid, a Democrat from Loudoun County, told WTOP.

Reid introduced House Joint Resolution 74, to designate the week of the new moon each April as International Dark Sky Week. This year, International Dark Sky Week will occur from April 2-8.

While the lights shining from major cities are the worst offenders, Reid said light pollution extends to the suburbs.

“Our streetlights, our lights that are in our communities, on our homes, all have a tendency to radiate in many different directions, including radiating light upward,” said Reid.

According to the Dark Sky International organization, light pollution harms migratory birds and other wildlife.

One of Reid’s favorite places to stargaze is in nearby Fauquier County at Sky Meadows State Park.

“You’re out there, and you have this wide-open view of the night sky, and not a lot of light pollution. You just see so many stars, and you can actually see parts of the Milky Way.”

Reid calls himself an amateur astronomer, who has shared the joy of looking toward the heavens within his family’s backyard in Ashburn.

“I remember looking through that telescope, and see the rings of Saturn, and the bands on Jupiter, with your own eye. It’s not like what you’re going to see from the James Webb or Hubble telescope, but then being able to have my teenage daughters at the time, look and see those things is just so much more compelling than what you see in a magazine,” Reid said.

In addition to Sky Meadows, James River, Natural Bridge and Staunton River state parks are also designated as Virginia’s Dark Sky parks, which follow strict ordinances to avoid light pollution.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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