Dark Skies Through Visitors Eyes: Connecting to Zion Region Dark Skies

Project Need: $53,000

Pipe Spring National Monument, already recognized as an International Dark Sky Park, stands as a beacon of starlit preservation. Here, efforts to expand dark sky education and programming are ongoing, with the monument seeking continued support to bring the cosmos closer to its community. Cedar Breaks National Monument boasts a robust night sky program, where the wonders of the Universe are accessible through a suite of programs.

Yet, at Zion National Park, the canvas of the night sky remains a frontier of discovery. Zion, designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2021, is on a quest to establish a foundational understanding of its nocturnal landscape. This mission entails baseline research to tailor dark sky programming that resonates with Zion’s unique environmental and visitor dynamics. The park’s ambition is to weave the fabric of science and wonder, crafting experiences that illuminate the dark sky’s significance while navigating the challenges posed by high visitation and light pollution.

Serena Wurmser, the Scientist in the Park intern, embodies the spirit of curiosity and passion that drives this exploration.”People often expect a scientific answer when they ask about my love for the dark skies, but the truth is, dark skies are just so cool.”

The project seeks to develop a comprehensive night sky interpretive programming plan by deploying science communication strategies and collaborating with local experts. This plan will not only consider Zion’s unique challenges, such as managing large crowds and mitigating light pollution, but also embrace opportunities to incorporate diverse cultural perspectives into night sky stories.

The findings from this baseline research are expected to inform a range of pro- grams, from in-park astronomy events to educational outreach in surrounding communities. These initiatives aim to elevate public awareness about dark sky conservation and inspire actions to protect our shared celestial heritage.

As Zion navigates the complexities of pre- serving its dark skies amidst growing visitor numbers, this research will provide a crucial evidence base to guide program development, ensuring that every visitor leaves with a greater appreciation for the night sky’s wonders and a deeper commitment to its stewardship. With your support of this program, together, we can safeguard the celestial wonders for generations to come, ensuring that the night sky continues to tell its timeless tales.