NewsIdaho Backroads


Light pollution contributes to a new industry called Astrotourism

Posted at 2:09 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 19:00:28-04

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho has a certified International Dark-Sky Community in Ketchum, a Dark-Sky Park at Craters of the Moon and a Dark-Sky Reserve in central Idaho.

Michael Marlin is the author of Astrotourism a book that looks at how to monetize the night skies because people who live in cities are having a more difficult time seeing stars in the night sky because of light pollution.

In 2016, Science Advances published a new atlas of the world showing the effects of light pollution, researchers found that 80 percent of the world lives under light-polluted skies, and in America and Europe that number jumps up to 99 percent, here is a map.

Light pollution in southern Idaho

“You can't teach about Astrotourism unless you teach about light pollution because light pollution is the driver of it," said Marlin who came to Boise to speak at the Idaho Conference of Recreation and Tourism." Even now as Boise continues to grow its light is starting to show up on the horizon.”

On the horizon to the northwest is the Central Idaho Dark Sky Preserve that encompasses more than 1,400 square miles from Sun Valley to Stanley and Beyond, the International Dark-Sky Association doesn't give these distinctions away they were earned by the communities who changed laws to protect to the dark skies.

“I was involved in changing the lighting in Stanley they had 3,000-kelvin lights and introduced them to 2,200-kelvin lights and they went for it, "said Marlin. "It's an amber light."

But once an area earns the designation from the International Dark-Sky Association it creates economic opportunities so Marlin wrote a book that describes how to supply those services to stargazers, eclipse chasers and the people interested in science fiction and space.

“If the people of Idaho do not take advantage of the sky they live under then the fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves," said Marlin. "It requires staying over another night and you get the hotels, you get the gift shops, you get the restaurants and everything else."

We talked with Idaho Tourism who informed us that Governor Little declared this week hospitality appreciation week and for this year's lifetime achievement award in travel and tourism the Governor awarded that to hospitality workers as a whole.

The pandemic had a big impact on Idaho tourism initially, but then people started exploring the outdoors, the 31 scenic byways and coming back to wineries, micro-breweries and hotels.

While the service industry has a hard time filling positions while dealing with supply chain issues the industry has rebounded nicely and that's why the Governor declared this week for the hospitality workers.

We interviewed Diane Norton about the Idaho tourism industry and the latest trends, but we also asked her about Michael Marlin's presentation on astrotoursim.

It takes the stars from the Milky Way Galaxy tens to hundreds of thousands of light-years to reach Earth only to be swallowed up by the artificial lights radiating from our cities.

Marlin told us white light is the worst culprit and a way people can do their part to limit light pollution is by using amber lights when possible.

"It will continue to get worse, it doesn't get better," said Marlin. "As lighting pollution drives Astrotourism it is also its biggest threat."

Idaho has a Dark-Sky community, park and the only reserve in America, but it doesn't have any sanctuaries which is the next step up, there are 14 sanctuaries in the world and seven of those are in the United States.