Julian Named California's Second Dark Sky Community
Speaker 1: 00:00 As pandemic restrictions ease up many San Diego ones. Can't wait to get back into the bright nightlife of the city, but for one area of the County, nightlife has gotten darker and a lot more beautiful. The town of Julian was recently named an official dark sky community. Just the second one in California, after Borrego Springs, after a lengthy preparation, including an acting new outdoor lighting ordinances. Julian received the designation from the international dark sky association. Now, in addition to Julian's traditional rustic charm, visitors can gaze at a new, clearer vision of the heavens. Johnnie Mae is Lisa well. She's physics and astronomy professor at San Diego city college and resident astronomer at the fleet science center. Lisa, Speaker 2: 00:49 Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me on, Speaker 1: 00:52 Can you try to describe the difference between looking up at the night sky and San Diego with what it looks like? And Julia, now that it's a dark sky, come here. Speaker 2: 01:02 When you go outside at night in a large metropolitan area like San Diego, the light pollution washes out the faintest stars in the sky. So if you and I were to go outside tonight, weather cooperating and look up at the sky, we would see, um, a couple of dozen, several dozen of the brightest stars in the sky, but we'd be losing out on the fainter details, uh, the Milky way going across the sky, the fainter stars that build up the constellations. And it's just, it's a very different experience. You're almost overwhelmed by the number of stars there are because we're just not used to seeing that many from a city. And that's what having a designated dark sky community like Julian will make available to people. Now Speaker 1: 01:45 Getting that dark sky designation is quite a process. So what did Julian have to do to get, Speaker 2: 01:50 Yeah, that well, Julian hope to follow in the footsteps of Borrego Springs, which is the other community in California that has their dark sky designation. Um, and they saw what Borrego Springs did, but they had to go even further because it turns out to that San Diego County has been kind of lagging behind the times in terms of lighting ordinances. So they had to work with the County to get lighting ordinances approved, but also that sometimes fixing light pollution can be kind of simple, like making sure the light is directed where you want it to, um, changing the color of the lights from the sort of bright blue led lights that we're all getting used to, to the warmer colors that don't scatter as much in the nighttime sky and cause air glow. So, um, that's how they worked to try to make their sky darker. Speaker 1: 02:40 Ask you just a little bit more about what light pollution, how it affects our ability to see the stars because going out in the city at night, looking up the sky is beautiful. I mean, it's, it's pretty, you see some stars, but when you go to a dark sky community or you go out some rural places, it's a whole different experience, isn't Speaker 2: 03:00 It? It really is. And I think it's a statement about how few people actually get that experience anymore. If you remember, there were several years ago, there was that large power outage over all of Southern California. And I had students, you know, contact me saying I'd never seen the sky like that. We should schedule a power outage like this once a month, when you go outside at night, a light pollution affects your ability to see the sky in a couple of different ways. Uh, first of all, there's just the glare, uh, bright lights, uh, don't ever let your eyes get dark adapted. Um, and what I mean by that is that your eyes can see better. The longer you're outside in the dark. It takes about 15 minutes for your eyes to get truly dark adapted. So if you're in a place with a lot of clutter of lights, your eyes never get truly dark adapted so that you can see the fainter stars in the sky. Speaker 2: 03:48 But the bigger problem in large metropolitan areas like San Diego is a sky glow where the lights of the city, uh, the light gets scattered in the air above the city and it causes what we see as light domes in the distance. And so, you know how, if you're coming into a large city, you can see the sky get brighter in the direction of the city before you ever see any of the buildings in the city. That's over us all the time in a large metropolitan area. And it just makes the fainter stars invisible to us. So we really only see about the couple of brightest stars in the sky. If you're really truly surrounded by light pollution, is Julian Speaker 1: 04:26 Dark sky going to help astronomers at Palomar or other observatories? Speaker 2: 04:32 Well, it certainly doesn't hurt when you're at a observatory and you look out at the horizon, you can see the light domes above cities in the distance. And so any city that makes an effort to decrease the light pollution will be a help to the professional observatories of the area. So in San Diego County, we have a Palomar, we have a Mount Laguna observatory, and any efforts will help that, uh, the astronomers at those facilities see the night sky better Speaker 1: 05:01 About amateur sky gazers do you expect this will increase visitors Speaker 2: 05:05 To Julian going? I certainly hope so because if you've never had a chance to see a truly dark sky, it's amazing. Most people who live in a city have never seen the Milky way itself, uh, studies have shown that up to 99% of people living in the United States, don't actually see a truly natural nighttime sky because we all live in cities or close enough to cities that their light pollution is changing. The sky that we see now, you're right. Speaker 1: 05:31 The fleets residents astronomer and are involved with the local astronomy on tap group. Do you foresee holding events in Julian in the future because of this new dark sky? Speaker 2: 05:41 Yes Ignation. Oh, I would love to. And, uh, you know, Julian already has, uh, people up there dedicated to bringing astronomy to the public, like with their, uh, their star party that they have done and will continue to do. And so, yeah, I'm looking forward to going up there and, uh, experiencing the night sky. I don't say that I can't quite do from here in San Diego Speaker 1: 06:05 Now next week, I believe that there will be a lunar eclipse. Would Julian be a good place to see it? Speaker 2: 06:12 Yes. And so there is a total lunar eclipse on Wednesday, May 26th. Um, it will be visible early in the morning, so it might be hard for some of us of the totality of the lunar eclipse will be from around four 11 in the morning till four 25 in the morning, our time. And it will be partially eclipse before and after that. So Julian might be a great place to go for this because we've had a lot of Marine layer and may gray, uh, here in coastal San Diego. And so if you want a good view of the lunar eclipse, you may need to get away from the coast. So yeah, Julian would be a great place. Speaker 1: 06:45 And do you need to bring a telescope or can you really see things with your naked eye? If you're out in that dark sky community, Speaker 2: 06:51 There are so many things that you can see with the naked eye when you're outside and get dark adapted under a truly dark sky. Um, as we're heading into summer, that's when the Milky way is it's brightest, that band of stars that shows the plaintiff, the galaxy at our sky, you can actually pick up some star clusters faintly with the naked eye, uh, that you can't see, uh, in the city. And so it is completely different. Starlight can be bright enough for you to see by, you know, and that's just not something we ever experience in a city. Now, Speaker 1: 07:25 Both Julian and Borrego Springs are official dark sky communities. And as a Borrego park is a dark sky park. Is there any chance we're about to see a whole sort of dark sky region in San Diego, Speaker 2: 07:39 Tony, you know, I would really love that. And, and there's, uh, not just because of preserving the night sky for all of us to experience, but light pollution is incredibly impactful. It wastes energy because a lot of that light is not necessary. It's not being directed into the places where the light is wanted. Um, it impacts wildlife and, um, health. And so I would love to see a greater movement towards understanding light pollution as the problem that it is. Speaker 1: 08:09 I haven't been speaking with Lisa well, she's physics and astronomy professor at San Diego city college and resident astronomer at the fleet science center. Lisa, thank you very much. Speaker 2: 08:20 Thank you.