02 Aug Night Sky Brightness Surveying
This summer I took measurements for night sky brightness monitoring and wrote the standard of procedure for the night sky monitoring program. Mammoth Cave is an International Dark Sky Park meaning it is “land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment” according to the International Dark Sky Association. Sky quality is one of the requirements for a dark sky park. The monitoring involves visiting 60 sites throughout the park on or near a new moon and taking the average of three sky quality measurements at each location. To take a sky quality measurement we use a SQM-L (Sky Quality Measurement Lens). It takes measurements ranging from 15 to 22, 15 being a sky with a full moon or street lights and 22 being a sky with only stars and almost no light pollution.
This year it took two nights to take our data, we started at 10 PM and ended around 2 PM on the night of a new moon and the night after.
Mammoth Cave only has a few years of data, not enough to make any significant conclusions.
It is wonderful to know that my instructions will be the basis for this monitoring project for many years to come at Mammoth Cave. It was really good experience to write a very detailed standard of procedure and taught me more about the precision and accuracy of taking scientific measurements. I considered many complications and came up with potential solutions if they were to happen and have a revision sheet when the standard of procedure may need to change according to new mistakes or unknowns.
More information on:
Mammoth Cave as a dark sky park: https://www.nps.gov/maca/learn/management/international-dark-sky-park.htm
International Dark Sky Parks in general: https://www.darksky.org/our-work/conservation/idsp/parks/