The Milky Way galaxy and star constellations shine especially bright in Norwood, and because of the limited light pollution, the town was designated in February as an International Dark Sky Community.
Norwood is only the second town in Colorado to be granted the status by the International Dark Sky Association, and the first on the Western Slope.
The Westcliffe-Silver Cliff community is Colorado’s other Dark Sky designation. There are now 22 International Dark Sky Communities, 15 of them in the U.S.
Residents and town officials formed the Norwood Dark Sky Advocates and worked for three years to make a case for the designation. Rules were implemented controlling lighting in town and on future developments.
The town’s location at 7,000 feet elevation on Wright’s Mesa and its remote location, low population of 518 and dry climate are ideal conditions for clear night skies and stargazing.
The town produces very little light pollution, according to an IDA report. Mountains and plateaus shield it from the few distant urban light sources.
Co-chairs of Norwood Dark Sky Advocates, Creighton Wood and Bob Grossman, say that 80% of the world’s population can no longer see the Milky Way because of city and industrial light.
The exquisite darkness of Norwood’s night skies is a source of pride and a way to attract visitors.
“In Norwood, you can see the Milky Way year-round, even the faintest parts,” says Grossman. “In the summer, you can see it even before the end of twilight. The rest of the night sky is truly glorious too.”
To prove the dark skies met the designations’ standards, the advocates conducted a Sky Quality Meter project over three years.
The darkest limit of the Unihedron SQM instrument is 22.0 units. Norwood’s averaged annual value for all observation is 21.43 units, with a range 20.64 to 21.95, according to the International Dark Sky Association.
This designation and the recent increase in astro-tourism hopefully will inspire people to visit Norwood to view an amazing night sky few in the world now enjoy, Grossman said.
Amateur astronomers visit Dark Sky sites because they can observe very faint celestial objects.
“I am pleased to welcome the town of Norwood, Colorado, into the International Dark Sky Places Program,” stated Adam Dalton, IDA Dark Sky Places program manager.
“As one of the quickly growing number of Dark Sky Places designated on the Colorado Plateau, Norwood’s policies and community actions will help to protect and preserve the region’s incredible night skies for years to come.”
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