Shining a light on Dark Sky communities | Digitized House

Guide to the Connected Home

Shining a light on Dark Sky communities

Shining a light on Dark Sky communities
Solar driveway lighting.

In some cases, it pays to be in the dark. That rings particularly true in the small city of Dripping Springs, Texas, that earned an elite designation in 2014 as one of only 11 municipalities in the world certified as an International Dark Sky Community by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and their Dark Sky Places program.

That’s some pretty exclusive company, as the small-but-rapidly-growing Dripping Springs—located about 20 miles west of metropolitan Austin—joins a short list of only 7 other U.S. communities, plus one each in Canada, Scotland, and the United Kingdom—with the International Dark Sky Community moniker.

What is the IDA, and moreover, what is the significance of their Dark Sky program? We wrote much more about the work the IDA is doing, and specifically why homeowners should care about Dark Sky-compliant outdoor lighting fixtures in our original Digitized House article, “Illuminating your home with Dark Sky lighting.” In a nutshell, the IDA is an international organization focused on protecting the night skies by advocating the reduction of outdoor light pollution though education outreach, the certification of lighting fixtures and products as Dark Sky compliant, the designation of Dark Sky Places worldwide, and much more.

Lunar eclipse, 27 September 2015
We produced this time-lapse image of the September 27, 2015 Lunar Eclipse over the skies of Driftwood, Texas—a stone’s throw from the Dark Sky Community of Dripping Springs.

According to the IDA, the definition of an International Dark Sky Community is as follows: “A town, city, municipality or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies.”

Furthermore, the IDA Dark Sky Places program also designates Dark Sky Parks, Dark Sky Reserves, Dark Sky Sanctuaries, and Dark Sky Developments of Distinction. All totaled, there are currently 51 such certified locations across the globe. And in a very recent development, the IDA designated the UBarU Camp and Retreat Center near Kerrville, Texas (located about 65 miles west of Dripping Springs), as an International Dark Sky Park on November 2, 2015.

Back in the hamlet of Dripping Springs, we had the pleasure of meeting Cindy Cassidy, a tireless champion of the successful effort to get the city certified and sustained as an International Dark Sky Community. Not content to rest on that laurel, Cassidy—also the head of the IDA’s Texas Section—is poised as the prime mover behind what we think is the first event of its kind: the Texas Night Sky Festival, a one-afternoon-and-into-the-evening event coming to Dripping Springs on March 5, 2016.

As the Texas Night Sky Festival Web site describes the event: “The intent of the Festival is to increase the appreciation of the night sky and the world around us. This goes hand in hand with increasing awareness about the type of lighting that provides needed light while it reduces glare, saves money, eliminates light trespass, protects the health and safety of living things, and saves our common view of the night sky.”

Front and center at the affair will of course be education sessions and talks around the Dripping Springs Dark Sky compliance efforts, the ins-and-outs of Dark Sky lighting, science exhibits, planetarium shows, and solar observations before the sun sets.

But make no mistake, the star of this event will no doubt be the Star Party itself, a golden opportunity to see first-hand the stars laid out above a certified Dark Sky community. We will be sure to bring you more details as the plans for the event are solidified over the coming months.

Tom Kolnowski

Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.