Date: November 19, 2009

Title: A Ceremony Celebrating Dark Skies


Podcaster: Scott Kardel

Organization: Palomar Observatory:

Description: Borrego Springs, CA was just named the world’s second International Dark-sky Community. Palomar Observatory’s Scott Kardel, a member of the Borrego Springs Dark-sky Coalition, takes this podcast to the ceremony where the community was officially recognized and shows off how they did it.

Bio: Scott Kardel received his MS in Astronomy from the University of Arizona and his BS in Physical Science / Secondary Education from Northern Arizona University. For the last two and a half decades he has been working to bring an understanding of science and the universe to a wide range of audiences. In 2003 he became the Palomar Observatory’s first full-time person devoted to public outreach. There he works to bring Palomar’s rich history and story of exploration on the road and on the Net to a wide variety of groups throughout Southern California and beyond.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by Boldstar Infrared Services Inc., using infrared thermography to shed new light on electrical systems, building heatloss and moisture infiltration conditions and other amazing applications in the Toronto Canada area. Visit our web-site at


Hello and welcome to another edition of the 365 Days of Astronomy podcasts. I am Scott Kardel of the Palomar Observatory.

Earlier this year the international Dark-sky Association announced that the community of Borrego Springs, California was the world’s second International Dark-Sky Community.

The International Dark-sky Association set up this designation to recognize communities that have taken extraordinary steps to preserve the natural night. While only two communities have achieved dark-sky status there are a growing number of dark-sky parks and preserves.

In October of 2009 a ceremony was held in Borrego Springs as they officially received their dark-sky status. What follows is a portion of that day. As you listen notice what took place in Borrego Springs to make it happen. They involved a diverse group of people that worked to involve local government and build community support for the concept of preserving dark skies.

The first speaker is Jose Aponte the director of the San Diego County Libraries.

“We wanted to welcome you to our first anniversary of this new library. But this is recognition about your community. So for you, we are glad. We are excited to be part of it and we look forward to being a part of today’s event. Welcome to our library. Thank you.

“Our next speaker is Scott Kardel from Palomar Observatory.”

“I was asked to speak on the importance of dark skies and given a limited amount of time and I can’t begin to cover it. As someone from Palomar Observatory I can tell you that from our perspective dark skies are essential for us to do the research that we want to do.

“But you folks aren’t gathered here to do research. You’re gathered here to help celebrate that people have taken the time to try to preserve something, which is a wonderful thing.

“The skies here from Borrego are fantastic. I have been working with the dark-skies coalition for two years. I am very proud of the work they have done. I can tell you that my job with the observatory, part of what I get to do, is to go talk to people about light pollution. Go talk to people about laws related to light pollution and ordinances and things. But about four or five years ago we had a revision of the County’s lighting ordinance. And I remember there were letters exchanged with staffers and things like this. And on the day it was for the Board of Supervisors to do their vote there were a few of us there to make a presentation in support of the ordinance. And just before the presentation we learned there were people there to speak against it. And there was this nervous little like ‘what is it?’ ‘what are they going to say?’ ‘what’s gonna happen?’

“But the reason they spoke against it was because there were some representatives from here, from Borrego Springs, that said ‘the ordinance isn’t strong enough. It needs to do more.’

“That’s really like the best kind of opposition you can have, right? They’re on the same side as you, but they want to go further. That was really cool. That was really the first time I heard that there was anyone in Borrego Springs interested in trying to preserve dark skies.

“Obviously that has really stuck with me in a very positive way. And so when it became obvious that there were people willing to try to take that next step I was very eager to be involved and I have been here many times. And I just wanted to conclude by having the people that worked on this for the community be recognized.

So, Joan Malone. Joan, go ahead and stand up. Sally Theriault. Stand up. Sam Webb. Astrophotographer Dennis Mammana and grand marshall from today. Betsy Knaak, our outgoing “mayor” of Borrego and chair of the group. These people have worked very hard and they have a lot ot be proud of now and I am certainly proud of all the work that they have done.

Betsy Knaak Executive Director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association:

“I am speaking today on behalf of the Borrego Springs Dark Sky Coalition, the folks who were just introduced. That included Scott as well. We’re very excited about the designation we’re going to receive today. It’s a momentous occasion for Borrego Springs, California. And many of you know that we have been working toward this day for two years. We turned in the first version of our community application to the International Dark-sky Association in May 2008. And then the IDA committee sent us back for more documentation of local lighting an in addition we needed to satisfy their requirement that controls on lighting for new buildings were in place at the permitting level.

“And so we went back to work on that. In June of this year our application was accepted as complete by the IDA committee assigned to us, who had been working with us. And then it was forwarded on to the IDA national board of directors for their review and vote. And on July 31st 2009 we received word that Borrego Springs had been designated an International Dark-sky community, the first in California and the second in the world.

“The award recognizes our beautiful dark, starry sky and also the community’s commitment to keep it dark. Now, and in the future. The Coalition, these six people here, worked so well together. Each brought skills that helped us move forward. Scott and Dennis with their professional backgrounds in the subject. And Sally, Joan and myself working on documentation. Sam, doing much of the photography for us. And as well as Dennis. So it was a good combination of skills.

“But in it we needed help outside of our group. And in addition we were extremely fortunate to have professional support and assistance both in the area of astronomy and lighting engineering. And that assistance came from several people who are here so I would like for them to stand up and be recognized.
“First is Dr. James Riccard and Grace Riccard. If you would stand up.”

Jim and Grace are long-time Borreagans and they are also now six-month residents of Ireland. And so in September, this past month, at the Ninth Annual European Dark-sky Symposium Jim spoke about Borrego Springs being the newest dark-sky community in the world and presented a beautiful program about Borrego in Northern Ireland. They sent me the tape so I could watch that, not only Jim’s presentation, but the other people who presented that day, including Kim Patten, and it was a very inspiring moment to see Borrego Springs discussed, the dark sky on that world level. So there is just keen interest in this subject all over the world and Borrego Springs is now a part of it. And I am sure we will be looking into that more in the future, but right now we’re here today to accept the designation.

“Another person I’d like to recognize who’s here is Paul Ericson. Where are you Paul?

I just met Paul today though we have many, many e-mails going back and forth and phone calls. I told him when I met him this morning that honestly we could not have done this without him. [He’s] a respected lighting engineer in San Diego, works on a lot of these projects. It really helped us with some of the things that the IDA wanted to see from our community and future building that could possibly happen here. Paul went to the County for us and really just served in more of a technical capacity. So, thank you Paul for that. Much appreciated.

One other person. I don’t believe he’s here today, but I just want to mention Chris Luginbuhl, who is a professional astronomer with the Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, was really my main liaison throughout the two years for the IDA until it was passed on and approved to Kim Patten. So Chris Luginbuhl also guided us through this process.

“And in addition, the incredible support from the community. With the many projects I’ve been involved with in Borrego Springs I have never seen the support for any one project as I have seen for this dark-skies designation. It was 100% in favor of this. And the letters that people wrote. The emails that became part of our application. From individuals. From home owner associations. People from out of town who just love this area and want to see it stay so beautiful and pristine. That was an incredible thing to be on the receiving end of and I know it was mentioned in the successful application, the community support that we had. So for the businesses, the hotels, all of the owners of the buildings that we documented, they let us photograph all their light fixtures. Thank you for that.

“And then I would like to recognize a special guest. Lance Disken, if you would stand up. Lance?

Lance is here representing Flagstaff, Arizona, the first International Dark-sky Community and we are starting a tradition here today where a representative from each dark-sky community attends the designation of the next dark-sky community. So, Sam Webb mentioned that we hope the third one is some wonderful exotic place. Maybe Australia. [Laughter] Because then we’ll want to send a representative.

“And so today we’re very pleased to be celebrating our dark-sky designation at our beautiful Borrego Springs County Library. Supervisor Horn signed on early with the dark-sky designation and that too is mentioned in our successful designation and the application that we did have strong support of the County. We received tremendous support from Supervisor Horn for the County plan this year. It’s a County of San Diego document that provides guidelines for the future of Borrego Springs. And the spectacular night sky is just one of our most important resources and we’re so happy today about that.

“So with that I’d like to thank Supervisor Horn for attending today and turn the program over to him.”

“Thank you for hosting us and inviting us. We appreciate being here. I have one of those telescopes that you put in a car and you take out to the desert and you take a nap so you can get up at three in the morning and take photographs of Saturn’s rings and those kind of things. We appreciate really, really dark areas.

“This is a proclamation honoring Borrego Springs for their dark-sky community designation. It’s got a lot of ‘whereas-es’ and most of it has all been said already. I want to thank the committee members in the community that stuck with this. Stayed on it. It is very important. I am hoping that this will bring tourists from all over the world to fill up Borrego, so they can look at the cactus.

On Behalf of the Board of Supervisors I would like to declare this to be Borrego Springs Dark-Sky Coalition Day, and evening, throughout the County of San Diego and we want to thank you very much for your efforts. And we hope that many people will come visit your community just to look at the stars.”

“Just to mention that all the official documents, the proclamation, the certificate, and any photographs will hang in the library permanently. Throughout the year you’ll be able to see these in the library as well as informational handouts about the dark sky, what you can do to improve your own lighting. There is one that sometimes gets a chuckle that’s how to talk to your neighbors about their lighting, the dark skies, light trespass from the neighbors. That sort of educational material will be available in the library.”

Later in the day Kim Patten of the International Dark-sky Association presented the official certificate and reminded the community of preserving what they already have. Her speech was followed by that of astrophotographer Dennis Mammana who spoke of the beauty of seeing the night sky from the desert. So the big question is what will be the third International Dark-sky Community?

For Palomar Observatory this is Scott Kardel wishing you clear and dark skies.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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