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Small Western Colorado Town Receives International Recognition for Dark Sky

Scorpius over Norwood, CO and Lone Cone Mountain. Photo: Braden Barkemeyer. Braden created this image to resemble the Norwood Dark Sky Advocates logo, the constellation Scorpius hanging over Lone Cone Mountain, a popular feature in the area. Canon T5 with 18mm lens, f/3.5 ISO-6400, 15 second exposure looking south from Deer Mesa just south of Norwood in Montrose County, CO. Note the Milky Way and the “teapot” of Sagittarius visible on the left in this single exposure image.

NORWOOD, Colorado – Feb. 21, 2019

After almost 3 years of hard work on the part of a small team of volunteers in Norwood, Colorado, the International Dark-Sky Association has designated their town as the newest International Dark Sky Community. This is the first International Dark-Sky Association “Dark Sky Community” on the Western Slope of Colorado and only the second in the State. There are now 22 International Dark Sky Communities; 15 in the US and others in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, and the U.K.

The team, Norwood Dark Sky Advocates, is Co-Chaired by Creighton Wood and Bob Grossman. They point out that approximately 80% of the world’s population can no longer see the Milky Way due to the high levels of light pollution in cities and industrialized remote landscapes. In Norwood you can see the Milky Way year-round, even the faintest parts; in the summer you can see it even before the end of twilight. The rest of the sky is truly glorious too.

Norwood is a small town in southwest Colorado, population 518, at an altitude of 7,000 ft (2,134m). Situated in a high desert climate it has very dry conditions creating many days and nights with clear skies. Its remote location and sparse population produce very little light pollution. Norwood is surrounded by distant mountains and plateaus that shield it from the few, distant urban light sources.

To quote David Elmore, Astronomer Emeritus, National Solar Observatory and Board Member of the Longmont (Colorado) Astronomical Society, “My visit to Norwood was the first time I witnessed a sky that is so dark clouds are black against the stars. … It was possible for me to easily view the Milky Way from within Norwood itself”.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) was started in 1988. Its mission: to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. IDA achieves its goal by educating the public to the many damaging effects of light pollution, encouraging people to use non-light polluting shading and setup for outdoor lighting, and by having governmental organizations adopt ordinances that reduce or eliminate light pollution.

IDA began its Dark Sky Places Program in 2001 that certifies Dark Sky Communities, Parks, Reserves, Sanctuaries, Urban Night Sky Places and Developments of Distinction. They grade prospective communities on 3 major aspects: Community Support, measuring the interest of the local government, businesses and townspeople; Scientific Measurement of the darkness; and local government adopting Local Ordinances and land-use codes that require all new outdoor lighting to be IDA-Compliant, a set of stringent requirements for shading and light color and intensity.

Adam Dalton, IDA Dark Sky Places Program Manager writes, “I am pleased to welcome the town of Norwood, CO into the International Dark Sky Places Program. As one of the quickly-growing number of Dark Sky Places designated on the Colorado Plateau; Norwood’s policies and community actions will help to protect and preserve the region’s incredible night skies for years to come. Further, I would like to thank the Norwood Dark Sky Advocates for their tireless efforts; without them, this project would likely have not been possible.”

This designation and the recent dramatic increase in astro-tourism will hopefully inspire people to visit Norwood to see an amazing night sky few in the world now enjoy. Amateur Astronomers visit Dark Sky sites because they can observe very faint celestial objects.

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