Night Skies: The Beauty that Requires Darkness
“I did it all for my dad,” shares Robert Parrish, holding back tears. “When I can’t connect to the stars, I feel a personal loss.”
Light pollution is stealing the beauty of the night sky. Robert helped create a dark sky park in southwest Michigan to give people an opportunity to stargaze and wonder at the array of stars in our galaxy.
Robert is an astrophile and speaking in an empty field in southwest Michigan as we see images of stars and the night sky.
Robert Parrish: When I can’t connect to the stars, I feel a personal loss. It’s my opinion that mother nature is just as beautiful at night as it is during the day.
And I always give the analogy: If you had a beautiful home overlooking Lake Michigan, and somebody put up a big fence that blocked your view, how would you feel about it? And I look at the night sky in the same way.
Light pollution or “sky glow” decreases star visibility.
My dad used to take me outside and teach me some of the things he knew about the night sky. I had a blast sharing that time with my father. And when he passed away a little over three years ago, I thought it’d be a good idea to try and make Lawless Park a dark sky park. And I succeeded.
People from Chicago and Detroit travel here for dark sky views. They gather in the dusk at the park.
One couple has a small dog who approaches the camera.
Speaker: This is Lulu.
Producer: Does she like the dark sky?
Speaker: She’s never been here before.
Producer: Oh man.
Robert: We do have lighting out here in the park, but the lights that we do have are all 3,000 Kelvin or less, and they’re environmentally friendly. We highly recommend that you have a red flashlight, because the red light doesn’t cause your eyes to constrict, and preserves what you can see at night. Blue lighting is very bad.
Robert is showing us his red flashlight; 99 percent of Americans are exposed to artificial light at night and 80% can’t see the Milky Way at night.
When I was much younger, even in my backyard back then, you could see stars, many more stars than you can even now at the park. And that’s because of night pollution and the glow in the sky.
And it’s just a darn shame. What affects me the most is that memory of how beautiful it used to be. And I would really like to see that back. As light pollution gets worse, I do worry about the next generation not being able to see the stars. Because it’s hard to miss something if you’ve never seen it before, and never cherished it before.
When you really see the stars that are arching across the sky, the different planets, the different nebula, it helps people to understand their place in the universe. And I want young people to understand that, and know that we aren’t really anything but a speck of dust in the large stage of the universe.
Producer: What’s your favorite planet in our solar system? Can’t say Earth.
Robert: Yeah. Oh, definitely Saturn. Mostly because when I show people for the first time, the reaction they get from it. They gasp a little bit, and can’t believe that they’re actually seeing the rings of Saturn.