Part of downtown Rapid City goes dark this weekend.
It’s in conjunction with a global event called Earth Hour, where cities around the world are shutting off their lights for an hour. The event aims to bring awareness to both conservation and light pollution.
Many living in South Dakota are used to seeing the stars at night, but people who live in large cities don’t enjoy the night sky in the same way.
“There are a bunch of people who haven’t seen the Milky Way or don’t get to see it very often. It’s such a beautiful aspect to look up and see the vast sky,” says Diane Knutson an organizer of the Earth Hour event in Rapid City.
South Dakota is home to a rare a few rare Category 1 dark sites, including one in the Slim Buttes area of Harding County. This level of darkness occurs only in very remote places where light pollution doesn’t impede nighttime sky. Knutson says the night skies in rural South Dakota are an asset to the state.
“There are not many places like that available and a lot of people in the city have to drive extended amounts of time to be able to do any observations,” says Knutson.
Knutson says there are ways to reduce the impact of city lights on the night sky that can reduce glare and focus street and other lights toward the ground and not into the sky. She says it's also about using the proper lights in the spectrum that contribute less to sky glow. Knutson says the new LED lights are great for saving energy, but she says many also have a blue light that travels further into the sky than lights that are on the redder end of the spectrum.
Knutson says the event in Rapid City starts at 8 o-clock Saturday night and includes a proclamation by city officials and film called Dakota Starry Nights. Lights go out in part of downtown at 8:30. National Park Officials from Wind Cave and the Badlands are giving night sky presentations in Main Street Square. Members of the Black Hills Astronomical Society and the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium are setting up telescopes for the public to view both Jupiter and the moon.