The first time I saw the Milky Way I was just about seven years old. I had no idea what that cloud of light and sparks was and my father had to explain it to me. Here I was, standing on a small bit of Planet Earth, floating in a darkness so expansive that we could only see the massiveness of our galaxy as a band of milky dust blending into so many other galaxies … and we are on the very edge of it all.
From that moment, I’ve pursued a career and lifestyle that brings me closer to the sky. An important step in this process has been studying physics and astronomy here, at the University of Arkansas. Counting my three months living at the McDonald Observatory as one event, I can count the number of times I have seen the Milky Way on one hand. This is not how it used to be, and this is why today we call the artificial brightening of the night sky light pollution. However, this does not just block out the beauty of the night sky it also causes a number of other problems. It is about baby sea turtles losing their way, birds circling lights to exhaustion, and even cancer cells multiplying in our own bodies.
To bring attention to this issue the University of Arkansas Honors College will present a series of events that focus on what light pollution means for us culturally and even biologically, and you’re invited:
- Star Party and Dark Sky Discussion, Sunday, March 11, 7:30-10:30 p.m.
Hog Haus restaurant, 430 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville
Connie Walker, creator of the GLOBE at Night light pollution awareness campaign, and Ian Cheney, producer and director of The City Dark feature documentary, will lead an informal discussion on light pollution and why it matters at Hog Haus restaurant. Complimentary light snacks will be served. At nightfall we’ll view the night sky with telescopes set up in front of the Walton Art Center. Connie Walker will demonstrate how to take observations for GLOBE at Night and use a sky quality meter to measure the level of light pollution in downtown Fayetteville.
- Arkansas Premiere of The City Dark, Monday, March 12, 5:30 p.m.
Verizon Ballroom, Arkansas Union
Filmmaker Ian Cheney will introduce his latest feature documentary, The City Dark, which explores the myriad implications of a globe glittering with lights—including increased breast cancer rates from exposure to light at night, and a generation of kids without a glimpse of the universe above. Both Cheney and Walker will answer questions after the screening.
Ian Cheney has produced a number of notable documentary films, including King Corn and Truck Farm. His new film, The City Dark, has been awarded the Jury Prize for Best Score/Music at the SXSW Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize, Environmental Film Fest at Yale and was recently selected as a New York Times Critics’ Pick. He will be here to talk to us about the creation of this film and answer your questions about light pollution and documentary filmmaking.
Connie Walker is a senior science education specialist at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and creator of the GLOBE at Night project. This project focuses on raising awareness of light pollution worldwide and also collects data on it from people like you and me multiple times every year. In fact, there will be a GLOBE at Night campaign just a few days after we see this film and Connie Walker will be here to give us expert advice on how to easily make these observations.
This is not one to miss.
I hope to see you there!
Want to hear more from A.J.? Check out her Ozarks at Large interview on the importance of darkness!