Recreation: Stargazing in Texas State Parks

October 24th, 2014

Stargazing

Stargazing



This is Passport to Texas

When it comes to dark skies, Texas is in good standing

Texas Parks & Wildlife has partnered with the McDonald Observatory, the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) and local astronomy groups to promote stargazing in our state parks.

Parks offer opportunities to get an eyeful of these sparkling celestial bodies while enjoying a great night outdoors – either on your own or during a planned event with other visitors and campers.

Some stargazing events coming up this month and next include: An evening of Stargazing at Lake Ray Roberts State Park Oct 25; staff from the University of North Texas Astronomy Department will give a brief talk about constellations, mythology and more! You’ll also learn the basics of stargazing through binoculars.

On November first it’s a North Texas Star party at Lake Mineral Wells SP. Learn about astronomy and view the night sky through a wide variety of telescopes.

On November 22, it’s star party time at Big Bend Ranch State Park, with some of the darkest of Dark Skies. Tour the night skies way out west, and stay over to experience and enjoy this remote and magnificently scenic park to its fullest.

Find complete details for all these events on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Nature: Dealing with Light Pollution

October 23rd, 2014

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a Dark Sky Park

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is a Dark Sky Park



This is Passport to Texas

The night sky once offered an stunning display of twinkling stars and planets. These marvels still exist, but today light pollution masks their brilliance.

04—Often what we see that in is the form of what we call skyglow.

Residents in urban areas know it best as a haze of light that hangs over their cities. John Barentine is with the International Dark Sky Association.

12—Our mission as the International Dark Sky Association is to preserve and protect that nighttime environment and heritage that we have of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.

Awareness and simple fixes can help take back the night.

16—Some of the things that we try to do, is to get people to look at the quality of the lighting that they’re using…to think about [whether] the amount of light that’s being put on the ground sensible for the task at hand…and are all the lights fully shielded so we’re not always blasting light [up into the night sky] from the ground.

Want to experience a dark sky? Some Texas State Parks have the darkest skies around.

27—Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Hill Country, and Copper Breaks State Park in North Texas. We have a very active chapter of our organization in Texas. I would say that the reason that this has all come about, is that Texas being largely rural, and having this tradition where — the stars at night are big and bright – that a lot of people consider the dark night sky to be part of the cultural history of the state, and find it worth preserving.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Nature: The Problem of Light Pollution

October 22nd, 2014

Image courtesy International Dark-Sky Association Facebook Page

Image courtesy International Dark-Sky Association Facebook Page



This is Passport to Texas

Few of us experience dark skies anymore because of light pollution.

08—Most often we see that [light pollution] in the form of what we call skyglow…[something] that people who live in or near cities will be familiar with.

Skyglow is hazy reflected light hovering over cities at night, disrupting nature’s day/night cycle. John Barentine, with the International Dark Sky Association says light pollution isn’t exactly benign.

16—It turns out that there are hormonal pathways throughout the body that are governed by that [day/night] cycle, and when we start disrupting them by putting light in at unusual times of the day, we disrupt those pathways and that’s what we think leads to some of the [potential health] problems.

Blue light (in the spectrum), associated most with sunlight, is most disruptive to our internal clocks.

22—Blue light triggers this hormone that’s called melatonin; in the daytime when the sun comes up that relatively blue sunlight turns down the production of melatonin and tells us to wake up. And then at night, the result is that the production of melatonin goes up, and that’s the cue that tells us to go to sleep. It’s also regulating all these sub systems throughout the body.

We have a link to The American Medical Association’s view of light pollution at passporttotexas.org. What’s being done to prevent light pollution. That’s tomorrow.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Nature: Dark Skies Over Texas

October 21st, 2014

Image courtesy International Dark-Sky Association Facebook Page

Image courtesy International Dark-Sky Association Facebook Page



This is Passport to Texas

Few of us have ever experienced a truly dark sky.

09—A dark sky is what humanity saw for basically its entire history up until the invention of electric light a little more than a century ago.

While we may feel safer outdoors at night because artificial light illuminates our way, over time, it may actually do more harm than good, says John Barentine, with the International Dark Sky Association.

30—We know that artificial light at night has a measurable impact on wildlife; we know that it has an impact on human health. Light governs the night and day cycles of all organisms, so when we put light into the environment when our bodies aren’t expecting it, there are inevitable results—some of which we are just beginning to learn – but turns out that it may be related (at least in humans) to incidents of some types of chronic disease.

Until the advent and widespread use of electric lighting, the sun, and to a lesser extent the moon, governed the cycle of day and night. That set a rhythm among living things we’ve been disrupting ever since.

And we’ll have more about that tomorrow.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Nature: Meteor Showers

October 20th, 2014

Night Sky

Night Sky



This is Passport to Texas

When small fragments of cosmic debris – created when a comet swings past the sun – enter the earth’s atmosphere at incredibly high rates of speed, they manifest as streaks of light in the night sky.

We generally name meteor showers for the constelations from which they seem to radiate. For example, the popular Perseid meteor shower, which peaks in mid-August, seems to come from the constellation Perseus – and thus its name. While arguably the most popular meteor event, the Perseid is only one of many that occurs year-round.

In fact, this week [October 21-22] the Orionids will peak; in a normal year you may see 20-25 meteors an hour; in a great year, as many as 50 an hour.

The Leonids, which peak November 15 & 16 come from the comet Temple-Tuttle; while the Leonids have provided stunning meteor storms as recently as 2001 expect only about 15 meteors an hour this year.

The Geminids, which peak the weekend of December 13 & 14, will offer the most impressive show of 2014. These meteors are often bright and intensely colored. What makes this event top notch is that meteors start showing up before 10 p.m. That means you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to see them.

Find a list of other meteor events at passporttotexas.org. And follow us on twitter, we’re @passporttotexas.

That’s our show for today. .. Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.