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Stargazing on the Rio Grande

Hello from McAllen, Texas! Even though our group has left the back country behind for Border Perspectives, I am still meditating on our time canoeing on the Rio Grande. One of our river instructors, Leslie, is extremely passionate about stars as well as the Dark Skies Initiative being pioneered by the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas. On one of our final nights camping on the river, Leslie explained that light pollution disrupts ecological patterns, wastes money and energy, and drastically hinders the visibility of stars in the night sky. She explained that the McDonald Observatory is pushing to establish The Greater Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve. This reserve would cover the Big Bend region and Northern Mexico, ensuring that this region can stay a reliable viewing location for the Milky Way–which many of us had never seen until this trip, including myself.

Now, you may be asking yourself: “But Laura, how can I help ensure that future generations will enjoy the night sky in my own community?” I am so glad that you asked. According to the McDonald Observatory website, as well as Leslie, you can make a difference in your own home by only keeping the lights on that are absolutely necessary. As well as making sure that your outdoor lighting is sufficiently covered at the top so that there is no excess light unnecessarily polluting the night sky.

Light pollution is an easy fix. All you have to do is turn them off! After seeing the Milky Way every night in Big Bend, I want to make sure that everyone can too.