FORT DAVIS, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- McDonald Observatory will host a series of events throughout Dark Sky Week, from April 18th through April 22nd, to raise awareness about the adverse effects of light pollution and the importance of preserving dark skies.

These events will range from pop-up labs, to talks on a wide variety of topics, to special tours of the observatory facilities, as well as learn about the state-of-the-art equipment used to study the night sky. All of this on top of the normal programs presented at the Observatory.

In addition, the McDonald Observatory will continue to showcase the Preserving Dark Skies exhibit at the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center.

The exhibit, which opened last year, has been a popular attraction for visitors to the observatory, with an estimated 50,000 visitors since opening. Preserving Dark Skies has been a vital tool for educating and raising awareness about the importance of protecting the night sky.

Covering more than 15,000 square miles in Texas and Mexico, the Big Bend International Reserve is the largest dark sky place in the world that is certified by the International Dark-Sky Association.

“The Observatory has played a major role in informing, educating, and recognizing good lighting,” said Stephen Hummel, Dark Skies Initiative Coordinator at McDonald Observatory. “One of the biggest developments has been the Night-Sky Friendly Recognition Program, which recognizes the efforts of businesses and organizations who use good lighting and thus supports the broader Reserve.”

Dark skies not only preserve the natural beauty of the night sky, but also reduce the negative impacts that light pollution has on scientific observations, human health, wildlife, and the environment. Light pollution is also known to disrupt ecosystems, affect astronomical observations, as well as interfere with sleep patterns of both humans and animals.

“The daily cycle of light and dark is vital for the survival of all life on Earth in some way, shape, or form,” said French.

Light pollution increases by about 9.6% annually in North America. However, data from Jeff Davis County shows that skies have become nearly 3% darker on average over the last year.

The public is encouraged to visit the West Texas’ dark skies and practice night sky friendly lighting. 

“There are lots of great things everyone can do to help,” said French.

More information about light pollution, the International Sky Reserve, and the planned events can be found on the McDonald Observatory website.