A new global study of light pollution has identified Northwest Wyoming as having some of the darkest skies in the lower 48 states. The New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness was a collaborative project to map the brightest and darkest places on earth.
Dan Duriscoe, the National Park Service scientist who worked on the atlas, said the area including Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks is very dark, and it is likely to stay that way.
“Primarily because they have a huge buffer. Yellowstone is over 3 million acres all by itself, and then you have the Forest Service, Grand Teton. The whole region is probably a contiguous 6 million acres. And that helps, that certainly helps,” said Duriscoe.
While the western United States is still considerably darker than the East Coast, Duriscoe also said that some areas are getting brighter.
“It has definitely shrunk in the last 20 years in certain parts of the West, particularly southern California, perhaps the Front Range of Colorado - places where the population’s grown, and it’s not just grown in town but people have moved out into the countryside,” said Duriscoe.
Duriscoe said light can harm nocturnal animals and obstruct the natural scenery, and that darker skies can be a tourist draw for stargazing.
To protect skies, Duriscoe recommends using softer lighting at night and turning off lights that aren’t being used.