Dr. Nordgren's Journey

Moonrise Milkyway

In 2005, Dr. Nordgren met several national park rangers who were working on reducing light pollution - the cumulative glow from outdoor lighting. The initiative later became the Night Sky Program – a grassroots effort to raise awareness about light pollution’s damaging effects on our starry skies. Recognizing the importance of protecting the last remaining sites from which you could see the stars, and believing park visitors would be a fantastic audience to reach out to and talk to about science, Dr. Nordgren approached the park service with his idea for the trip.

He took a 12-month sabbatical to explore and photograph the night skies within America’s national parks, from Denali in Alaska to Acadia National Park in Maine. With support from The Planetary Society, Dr. Nordgren spent one to three weeks in each of these parks talking to experts and park visitors and giving public lectures to get a better understanding of what the average person thought about astronomy and planetary science.

Read more about Dr. Nordgren’s inspiration in his first blog entry, hosted by the Planetary Society:

Our U.S. National Parks are quickly becoming some of the few places that the average person can go to see a truly dark sky. When I talk to my students and ask if any of them have ever seen the Milky Way, only a small handful are ever able to say "yes," and often the occasion was some childhood trip to a national park. Today a dark starry sky is as much an integral part of a park visit as seeing Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon. But astronomy encompasses more than just the sky above the parks; it’s embodied in the very landscape that gives the parks their reason for being. Walk amid the thermal pools of Yellowstone National Park, and with far less imagination than one might think, you can see the newly discovered geysers of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. While in the red rock parks of southern Utah you can be an astronaut walking in the wheel-tracks left by distant rovers rolling across the ruddy vistas of Mars….


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