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DARK AND STARRY SKIES

"In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."

Baba Dioum (born 1937) is a Senegalese forestry engineer.

Why Starry Skies Matter

For hundreds of generations, humans have been stargazing along the Lower Wisconsin Riverway.  We watched the movements of the sun, moon, and stars and learned the cycles of days, months, seasons, and years.  We connected the stars, created constellations, filled the sky with our stories, and passed on to the next generations what mattered most to us.  In the last centuries, observers have studied the starlight more carefully and discovered an amazing story of how galaxies formed and created the stars that fused the elements that made life and stargazers possible.

 

In the last few generations, we have been losing the view of the starry skies that so filled us with awe.  Our artificial lights are creating a sky glow that is making it more and more challenging to see the starry skies. The stars are going to be just fine, but we humans and other members of the ecosystem might not be. We are squandering money and are making the landscape less safe. More and more research is emerging showing how artificial light is disrupting our sleep, destroying our health, degrading our environment, interfering with pollinators, and confusing migrators. We are losing our heritage of a night sky that has inspired so much science, art, music, and literature.  This loss is not an invitation to despair. There are simple steps we can take to bring back the night.

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The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway protects and preserves starry skies and provides easy public access for all to enjoy them!

Skies are darker along the LWR away from the lights of LaCrosse, Madison, and Dubuque.

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Places to Stargaze and Hike
Becoming a Stargazer
  • Go outside.  Look up.  Be wowed.  You’re a stargazer!

  • Get away from town lights.  See map for plenty of great places to stargaze and night hike along the LWR.

  • Give your eyes time to adapt to the dark.  Set aside your flashlight and cell phone.  If you need a little light, red or amber is best.

  • There’s a lot to see with just your eyes.  If you already have binoculars, use them to see even more.  You don’t need a telescope.

  • Be warm and comfortable.  Dress for 20 degrees cooler than the temperature. Remember healthy snacks and warm beverages.   Bring a blanket or air mattress or reclining chair.

  • Be safe.  Bring a buddy or let someone know where you are headed.

  • Like Driftless Stargazing to find out when amazing things are happening in the skies.

  • Meet your fellow stargazers at Iowa County Astronomers and Starsplitters of Wyalusing

  • EarthSky has daily updates of things to see.

  • Sky&Telescope has weekly updates of things to see.

  • Skymaps has a free monthly star map you can print off and bring.

  • ClearOutside lets you know how cloudy it might be.

  • LightPollutionMap shows how dark the skies might be.

  • International Dark-Sky Association has abundant resources to make it easy to preserve the night.

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FLOW Dark and Starry Skies Crew

 

John Heasley
Astronomy Educator Driftless Stargazing LLC
NASA Solar System Ambassador
IAU Dark Sky Ambassador
International Dark-Sky Association Advocate
 
Sue Dvorak
Iowa County Astronomers

Alayne Hendrcks
Iowa County Astronomers
 

Stargazing is a perfect activity for the pandemic.  We are safely outdoors and can keep as much distance as we want.  
And with our phones, we can even stargaze together apart with family and friends who are far away.