I am off on an adventure.

My honey’s solid bestie is getting married in Tucson, Arizona. Science nerd that I am, I leaped at the chance to visit “the astronomy capital of the world” and see those famous skies for myself.

Tucson is an official Dark Sky City. In fact, it is home to the International Dark Sky Association. This is what has made it the site for several of the most important astronomical finds of recent history.

Artificial light has brought us all lots of good things, no doubt about it. It has also messed things up a bit. More than a bit, really – we are only now starting to truly understand just how much.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

Despite all our amazingness, we are still mammals at the end of the day. Our bodies are wired for the natural patterns of light and dark. When those become disordered, it changes our sleep patterns. More than just being tired (although being tired matters), it also changes how much melatonin our bodies produce, which studies have now linked directly to the development of certain cancers.

We humans tend to focus on human problems, but the impact upon wildlife is even more worse. Baby turtles can’t make it to the water after hatching, amphibians lose the proper cues to mate, predators become unsuccessful hunters and birds die by the score from improper migration cues – or direct body strikes onto overly lit buildings or towers.


The earth was never intended to be lit at night.

The International Dark Sky Association is working to reverse that. No, they are not suggesting we revert to our Neolithic ways and go fully dark at sundown. What they are suggesting is more conscious decisions about when to use light and how to direct that light when needed.

A quick trip to their website, darksy.org, will give you an overview of the research, as well as some great examples of common sense tweaks making big impacts. For example, roadways lit with lamps that focus and direct the beams downward only (as opposed to the general globe effect we are used to) are not only better for the planet, they are actually far easier to navigate with, too. Our own eyes can make better use of the information when the light is focused only on what we need to see.

Lucky for us, Maine, which has some pretty staggeringly beautiful night skies as well, has Dark Sky Maine. The organization brings both educational and practical resources to bear on the issue, protecting and enhancing our own dark skies.

It also offers up opportunities to understand and enjoy our skies more. On their website, DarkSkyMaine.com, you can learn more about the science and join in on events. For example, in addition to the virtual star viewing parties, they will be hosting a viewing of the movie, “Defending the Dark,” at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick on May 3. Being a nonprofit, they are also more than happy to have you join or donate, but mostly they are about spreading the info, spreading the love, spreading the healing dark.

We are so fortunate in Maine. Take a quick trip to Los Angeles, New York City or even Boston and try to stargaze. You’ll see my point. We not only live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, our night skies are filled with stars. With proper understanding, conservation and better use of technology, we can keep it that way and thrive.

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