Dark Desert Skies

Grant Tandy

fact

Swallowtail

Swallowtail

The Oregon Swallowtail butterfly is the official state insect of Oregon and a true native of the Pacific Northwest. The Swallowtail can be seen in the lower sagebrush canyons of the Columbia River and its tributaries, including the Snake River drainage area.  Source: State Symbols USA

Latin name: Papilio oregonius

fact

Young Horny Toad Lizard

Young Horny Toad Lizard

In the summer these lizards begin foraging for food as soon as their body temperature rises as the heat of the day increases. They feed on slow-moving, ground-dwelling insects. In the fall they hibernate by burying themselves in the sand.

Latin name: Phrysonoma platyrhinos

voices

Cregg Large, member since 2009

Cregg Large, member since 2009

“I came to Oregon 12 years ago from Texas. Texas, for all its size, has very little public land. Coming to Oregon has made me realize the special gift we as Americans have in our public lands. Volunteering with an organization like ONDA is my way of reciprocating for this gift. Through restoration efforts, I feel we are helping leave a better place than we found it. Through advocating for protection for public lands, we safeguard migration routes for animals and keep the land where it belongs: with the public.”

Grant Tandy

Grant Tandy

Grant Tandy

Grant Tandy

That’s not to say that dark skies aren’t important to human beings and some of our biological needs, as well. An unnatural variation of darkness can manipulate our circadian rhythm, potentially disturbing our chance for a sound night’s rest. Culturally, we would be amiss without stories shared around a campfire about the starry positions and cosmological formations that tell our history.

So the question remains: how can we preserve our dark skies? The answer to preservation lies in changing the way we think and how we interact with the night in order to decrease light pollution. Light covers, forcing light downwards to the ground, rather than up into the sky can be easily placed on existing fixtures. Light strands can be set to timers, made to automatically turn off during the darkest points of the night when most of us are asleep and unable to enjoy them anyway.

If you live in Central Oregon, you’re lucky to be surrounded by organizations that are dedicated to the preservation of dark skies, and education on the wonders of our universe. In Sunriver, you can find the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory, with one the nation’s largest publicly accessible observatories, managed by local Central Oregon Community College astronomy professor Bob Grossfeld. Just east of Bend, you can find Pine Mountain Observatory, a world-class astronomical research facility with opportunities for the public to interact with astronomers, such as University of Oregon’s very own Doctor Scott Fisher. And in Bend, you’ll find Worthy Brewing’s Hopservatory, run by Grant Tandy– local astrophotographer, Central Oregon native, and the galaxy’s friendliest observatory manager. All of these passionate individuals are ready to teach you about the importance of the night skies and the vast knowledge contained in our universe.

International Dark Sky Week runs from March 31 through April 7. So turn out your lights and look up at the sky. Happy star hunting.


Written by Kody Osborne. Photos by Grant Tandy.

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