Dark Skies | Three College Observatory

Dark Skies

The observatory location in rural Alamance County was selected in the late 1970’s after much deliberation regarding the importance of sky darkness for sensitive astronomical observations. It was important that the observatory be located moderately close to the populations centers from which in which our students and observatory visitors live, but that the skies also be dark.

We expected that growth along the Interstate 85 corridor would eventually become a problem but that some decades might elapse before our visitors would no longer be able to see the milky way from the observatory, or before our sensitive cameras would record too much background light to enable research projects to be done.

We have found that growth has occurred faster than anticipated. It is important that yard lighting in the vicinity of the observatory be properly shielded so that stray light does not shine into the sky (it is wasted if it shines upward, while it is useful if it shines toward the ground).

It has been said that much of North America is now badly polluted by nighttime light. Certainly many of our students come to the observatory and see the milky way for the first time. It is our hope that they will continue to be able to enjoy this dark nighttime view for some years to come.

For further information please contact The International Dark-Sky Association.