Courtesy of International Dark-Sky Association
William Herschel spent the better part of his life looking to the skies to discover what lies beyond. His primary interest was in double stars, which lead him to build a large telescope in 1774. It’s through this telescope that William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus. His love for astronomy was passed on to his son, Sir John Herschel, who also made a late career of cataloging double stars, nebulae, and star clusters.
Centuries later in 1985, IDA co-founder, Tim Hunter, purchased a 20-acre plot of land on a high grasslands plateau in southern Arizona to develop an observatory. He spent his evenings there observing the same sky objects as the Herschels. As more and more light began to appear around his observatory, Tim began to realize that his amazingly dark sky was a very precious and fragile resource. He sought out advice from Dr. David Crawford who played a key role at the Kitt Peak Observatory outside of Tucson, AZ. Together they discussed ways to reduce light pollution, and Tim and David became the founding fathers of IDA when the organization was officially formed in 1988. Tim and David’s brainchild nurtured a love for the night sky in thousands of advocates around the world. The seeds of their efforts have evolved in ways they likely never imagined.
Today, the International Dark-Sky Association is the only nonprofit working to minimize the destructive impacts of artificial light at night on our environment, our health, and wildlife. We strive to educate the public about adverse effects of irresponsible light at night and engage the IDA community in unique and creative ways to get involved in dark sky advocacy.
Every day we learn more about earth’s plants and animals which depend on the daily cycle of light and dark. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on many creatures. IDA works to protect the habitat of these creatures, like another admirable dark-sky dad, the great-horned owl.
The male great-horned owl takes on the arduous task of hunting for two while mama owl broods. After the chicks hatch, dad brings home the bacon (mouse bacon, mostly!) for himself, mama owl, and two or three demanding tykes. Though great-horned owls are great survivors – in part thanks to their great dads – the loss of nocturnal habitat can make life much harder. Raising an owl family is no easy task, but as dads around the world understand, the great-horned owl’s devotion to the next generation makes it all worthwhile.
So three cheers for dark-sky dads across the world, across generations, and across the species. Happy Father’s Day from IDA.