March 30th: Global Astronomy Month and the Quest for the Dark (k)Night


Date: March 30, 2012

Title: Global Astronomy Month and the Quest for the Dark (k)Night

Podcasters: Connie Walker, Rob Sparks, Chuck Dugan, Carmen Austin, Johnathan Siquerios, Monica Mayne

Organization: NOAO,,,,,,, and,,

Description:With half of the world’s population now living in cities, many urban dwellers have never experienced the wonderment of pristinely dark skies and maybe never will. This loss, caused by light pollution, is a concern on many fronts: safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars. Even though light pollution is a serious and growing global concern, it is one of the most straightforward environmental problems people can address on local levels. To learn how you can get involved in dark skies preservation and energy conservation, join us for this podcast with the Dark Skies Crusader and his new side kick, the Dark (k)Night. To become the Dark Night, Donna Dempsey undertakes 3 Dark Skies Awareness events during April’s Global Astronomy Month: participation in the Earth and Sky Photo Contest, the International Dark Sky Week, and GLOBE at Night. Participating in the GLOBE at Night campaign is as easy as 1, 2, 3: look up at the night sky, match what you see toward Leo and report it on-line at Thanks!

Bio:Podcast co-author, Connie Walker is an associate scientist and senior science education specialist in the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) group at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona. She directs the worldwide citizen science campaign on monitoring sky brightness called GLOBE at Night (, which has great Facebook and Twitter pages at, and

Podcast co-author, Rob Sparks is a science education specialist in the EPO group at NOAO and works on the Galileoscope project (, providing design, dissemination and professional development. He also pens a great blog at

Chuck Dugan, who plays the Dark Skies Crusader, is a public program specialist for the NOAO Kitt Peak Visitor Center.

Carmen Austin, who plays Donna Dempsey or the Dark Night, is an astronomy major at the University of Arizona.

And Johnathan Siquerios, who plays Howard, is a biology major at the University of Arizona. Carmen and Johnathan are two of the 6 Education and Public Outreach students working for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.

And Monica Mayne, who is an Administrative Assistant at NOAO, joins us as Mom.

Sponsor: This episode of the “365 days of Astronomy” is sponsored by –John Richards

Narrator: Donna Dempsey grew up in a small town in rural Iowa. One of her favorite activities was stargazing under the dark skies
Donna: WOW! Look at all those stars! Mom, Dad! Get out the telescopes! I want to look at the Andromeda Galaxy!

Narrator: When she was sixteen, her family moved to the city and she was in for a surprise.

Donna: Mom, I am going outside with my telescope.

Mom (or Dad): Okay, Donna. Just stay in our backyard.
Sound effect: Door opening/closing

Sound effect: Door opening/closing!

Mom: Donna, are you all right? What’s wrong?

Donna (distressed): Mom, look at the sky! Where are the stars? All I can see is this sickly glow.

Mom: Goodness, I never noticed that before. This city is very bright. Only a few of the very brightest stars are visible.

Donna: There are so many lights in the city. They must be too bright for us to see the stars.

Mom: Wow! They are awfully bright!

Donna: YOU KILLED MY NIGHT SKY! I want it back?
Sound effect: Bicycle

DSC: You say you want a dark night sky?

Mom: Who are you, mysterious stranger?

DSC: I am the Dark Skies Crusader. In brightest day, in darkest night, no glaring light shall escape my sight. To those who worship brightness beware my power, the shielded light!

Mom: I thought you were just a legend!

Donna: Dark Skies Crusader, can you help avenge the loss of my night sky?

DSC: Alas the forces of brightness are strong and I am only one man. I have been battling them for many years.

Donna: I will join the fight. You can teach me!

DSC: Ah, an padawan to join the fight. I should warn you, the path is not easy.

Donna: I am not afraid of the dark. Can I become a superhero, Mom?

Mom: Well, okay, just be careful!

DSC: April is a perfect time for your training. It is Global Astronomy Month, a perfect time for you to go through the trials!

Donna: The trials?

DSC: Oh, yes, you must prove yourself to be a worthy advocate of dark skies. Your first task is to participate in the International Earth and Sky Photo Contest.

Donna: How do I do that?

DSC: Go to The World at Night photo contest webpage, They have all the details. You must take a great photo in one of two categories: “Beauty of the Night Sky” and “Against the Lights.” Photos should aim to address either category: either to impress people on how important and amazing the starry sky is or to impress people on how bad the problem of light pollution has become. Both categories illustrate how light pollution affects our lives. 

Donna: I know where I am going, to Yellowstone National Park to take a picture of a truly dark sky.

Mom: OK, here is the camera; be careful! Watch out for bears!

Narrator: Donna drove cross-country by herself for the first time to obtain her precious photograph. She encountered many hardships along the way.

Donna: $4.15 a gallon! You have to be kidding me!?!

Narrator: She made it to Yellowstone to get her picture at Old Faithful.

Donna: Let’s see. Old Faithful should go off any minute now and from here I can get a great shot of the Big Dipper behind it.
Sound effect: geyser/camera click

Donna: Got it! Now to show the Dark Skies Crusader!
Sound effect: Car door/car starting and driving

Donna: Here you go, Dark Skies Crusader! I’ve completed my first task!

DSC: And a beautiful photo it is! Have you entered the contest yet?

Donna: Yes, I went to The World At Night website just like you told me.

DSC: Excellent. Now you must participate in International Dark Skies Week.

Donna: Oh? What’s that?

DSC: April 14th -20th, the International Dark Sky Association promotes dark sky events around the world. You can find info on their website at

Donna: Wow! There is a Dark Sky Festival in Harmony, Florida on April 14th! I think I will go there! Another road trip!

Narrator: Her trip was arduous and she was tempted to abandon her quest.

Donna: Must resist the siren song of Disney World!

Narrator: She made it to Harmony on the 14th of April.

Donna: Wow! What a great little town!

Howard: Welcome to Harmony! I am Howard. Are you here for the Dark Skies Festival?

Donna: Yes, I am.

Howard: Great! Here is a flyer with a schedule for you. We have a StarLab portable planetarium set up, a NASA speaker and exhibit, a star party on the hill and Glow Golf for the kids.

Donna: Wow! What a great event! I wish there was something like this where I lived.

Howard: Well, there probably is. Lots of astronomy clubs around the country hold events for International Dark Sky Week. To find a calendar of star parties or to find an astronomy club in your area, go to either click “Find Events” or “Find Clubs”.

Donna: Great! I will check that out next year. Now part two of my trials is done!
effect: Car door/car driving away

Donna: I am back, Dark Skies Crusader! I am almost there! I only have one more trial to go!

DSC: Yes, Donna. Your last task it to take measurements for GLOBE at Night.

Donna: I have heard of that, but never participated.

DSC: Well, this is our seventh year so I think it is about time you joined the effort.

Donna: What do I do?

DSC: You must find the GLOBE at Night Guru. She can be found high on a mountaintop in Arizona.

Donna: Ahhh! You must mean Connie Walker. She works for the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and the mountain top you speak of must be Kitt Peak. I am on my way!

Sound effect: Car driving off

Donna: I seek the wisdom of the Globe at Night Guru.

Connie: Approach, lightning bug.

Donna: I wish to participate in GLOBE at Night.

Connie: Go to the GLOBE at Night website, There you will find the steo-bystep instructions you need to participate. First, you need to know your date and time of observation. Then your location or your latitude and longitude.

Donna: No problem, I have a cell phone with GPS.

Connie: Next find Leo (or Crux for our friends in the southern hemisphere).

Donna: Leo is easy to find. It has that backwards question mark for the head of the Lion.

Connie: Correct, and bright Mars is nearby in April of 2012. Next, match what you see in the sky to the charts on the website application and click on that chart. Don’t forget to choose the picture below that, showing how much cloud cover there is.

Donna: Hey, this is a cool mobile website. I can push different buttons to see different levels of sky brightness!

Connie: Now you have to report your observation by hitting the “SUBMIT” button.

Donna: Okay, magnitude 4 skies, submit. Done!

Connie: But you are not done yet! You have only submitted one point. You need to get well beyond that.

Donna: What if I adopt First Avenue? I could drive down the street and take a data point every mile.

Connie: That would fulfill your quest and you will find your path to endarkenment!

Donna: Thank you, GLOBE at Night Guru.
Sound effect: Car door/car driving off

Narrator: Donna drove down the street taking data. She had to overcome obstacles including stoplights, stop signs, and traffic backed up due the fire department rescuing a cat stuck in a tree. Later that night, she finished taking her data and returned to the Dark Skies Crusader.

Donna: Look! I took data all the way to the end of First Avenue.

DSC: Donna, you have passed the trials. I am happy to welcome you as my sidekick. I hereby dub you, the Dark Night.

Donna: Gee, isn’t that name already taken by Batman?

DSC: No, you are the Dark Night, N-i-g-h-t.

Donna: Cool! Do we have some sort of cool car like Batman?

DSC: Of course not! We are environmentally conscious! You will ride a bike now! Let’s roll!
Sound effect: bikes riding off

DSC: And, folks out there in Radio Land, I would like to challenge YOU to take up the quest to participate in dark skies awareness events during Global Astronomy Month! Check out for more information.
And remember, folks, all the links mentioned in the podcast are on the podcast website.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the Astrosphere New Media Association. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at Until tomorrow…goodbye.


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