As aviation professionals, we have a respect for the sky, and all things in it. Aviators are not the only group to have great admiration for all things “up above;” astronomers also play a key role in understanding our sky, atmosphere, and the great void beyond. Aviators and astronomers must cooperate to protect our ability to study this vast expanse.
The Science of the Sky
The southwestern United States is an astronomer’s paradise. Largely devoid of people and civilization, this region is home to a massive base of hobbyists and professional astronomers. In fact, Arizona is home to three of our nation’s largest telescopes: Lowell Observatory outside of Flagstaff, Kitt Peak National Observatory outside of Tucson, and Mount Graham National Observatory near Safford.
Astronomy is also big business for our state. According to the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona’s most recent advancements in astronomy, planetary, and space sciences research has generated an estimated $252 billion and 3,300 jobs for Arizona.
The quest for the perfect night sky is so important to both professional and amateur astronomers alike that several organizations have been created over the last several decades to help advocate for the astronomy community and for the pristine dark sky. Perhaps the best known is the Tucson-based International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). Founded in 1988, the IDA is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to protecting the night skies for present and future generations through advocacy, education, environmental responsibility, and promotion. They are recognized as an authority on light pollution, and are the leading organization combating light pollution worldwide. Some of the most notable outcomes of the organization include its Dark Sky Places program, its collaboration with the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) to create a joint Model Lighting Ordinance for use by communities, and its establishment of Dark Sky Compliant standards for lighting fixtures.