Friday, March 12, 2010

Welcome Back the Night Sky

Human appreciation of the night sky has had a long history. People today still gaze up at the stars and planets, asking the same questions as those thousands of years before them. It is a place of mystery, a place that can’t be touched and these celestial bodies bring wonder and amazement to those that enjoy a long lived pastime. Sitting around the fire, one might imagine another world and contemplate the fragile life cycles that we have here on earth.

We also have a history of using the night sky for other benefits and gain. Here at Cape Hatteras, mariners would use the night sky for navigation and direction. It was valued as much as our historic lighthouses that still shine today on the shores of North Carolina. Natural darkness is also vital to the many creatures that call these barrier islands home. Sea turtles depend on the night sky for reproduction as new hatchlings look to the moonlight for guidance back to the sea. Nocturnal land animals rely on night darkness for their own protection and survival.

Today, more of us are taking for granted the experience of natural darkness; a cosmic wonder that is disappearing. Not only are we noticing a loss of visible stars in the sky, but we are losing our sense of perspective as we enter a world of endless sun. 90 percent of the population is now denied the unique beauty of the night sky. Light pollution continues to increase with more and more wasted light directed above. Though modern technology has limited our need to use the sky, we still enjoy staring upward pondering a world beyond our reach.

Fortunately, Cape Hatteras is an excellent place to enjoy the night sky. National Parks are some of the few remaining sections of country where we can enjoy the magnificence of a starlit sky after sunset. This narrow strip of barrier islands, 30 miles out to sea, brings us further from the lighted mainland. At Cape Hatteras National Seashore we have the opportunity to gaze back in history and enjoy a show that has been playing since the beginning of time. So, we ask you to join us after sunset, turn off any unnecessary lights, sit back, relax, and welcome back the night.