Friday, August 15, 2014

Heavenly views: Sedona, Arizona, joins ‘Dark Sky’ towns

By Steve Hammons

(This article was featured 8/17/14 in “Knapp’s News” on the Coast to Coast AM radio show website. "Coast" has the largest late-night radio audience in the U.S. Award-winning investigative journalist George Knapp of KLAS-TV News in Las Vegas is a popular "C2C" host.)

Sedona, Arizona, just got more beautiful, if that is possible. Sedona is home to the world-famous “red-rock country” of magnificent stone formations and welcoming red earth located in the high-desert of central Arizona.

On Monday, Aug. 4, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) notified the city of Sedona and Keep Sedona Beautiful that Sedona had earned the rare designation as an International Dark Sky Community. There are only six communities in the U.S. who have achieved this designation.

Now, residents and visitors can enjoy the fantastic red-rock beauty during the day and appreciate to a greater degree the nighttime views of the stars and planets, and behold other sights as well.

According to an Aug. 6 news report in the Phoenix-based Arizona Republic newspaper, IDA representative John Barentine said the criteria for earning the Dark Sky Community status are challenging but do-able for many communities.

"We keep the bar set pretty high. That's the reason there aren't thousands of them," Barentine was quoted as saying.

But communities can start looking at the issue of nighttime light pollution and start making changes, he told the Republic. "We think that the solutions are simple, and that first people just have know that there's a problem to address," Barentine said. He added that improving the view of the night skies can be achieved by communities of many sizes.

INTELLIGENT LIGHTING

The Arizona Daily Sun newspaper in Flagstaff, Arizona, noted in an Aug. 7 article that the eight communities worldwide who have achieved the IDA’s Dark Sky Community rating are Flagstaff, Borrego Springs, Calif.; Homer Glenn, Ill.; Beverly Shores, Ind.; Dripping Springs, Texas; Isle of Coll in Scotland; and Isle of Sark in the Channel Islands, UK, and now, Sedona.

The IDA website points out that, “Once a source of wonder – and one half of the entire planet’s natural environment – the star-filled nights of just a few years ago are vanishing in a yellow haze.”

“Human-produced light pollution not only mars our view of the stars; poor lighting threatens astronomy, disrupts ecosystems, affects human circadian rhythms, and wastes energy to the tune of $2.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone,” the IDA claims.

The Daily Sun article also noted that Flagstaff will be the site of the Dark Skies and Emerging Technology Conference Aug. 18-20. The event “will bring together Southwest dark-sky advocates, municipal and business officials, the outdoor lighting industry and public land managers,” the Daily Sun reported.

“The goals include identifying new lighting technology and evaluating its cost and safety, along with developing a framework for collective dark skies protection across the Southwest,” the article explained.

Night lighting in communities, towns and cities can be used wisely or unwisely, according to the IDA. Their website points out that, “We promote one simple idea: light what you need, when you need it. We know some light at night is necessary for safety and recreation.”

“We work with manufacturers, planners, legislators, and citizens to provide energy-efficient options that direct the light where you want it to go, not uselessly up into the sky.”

"IDA is the recognized authority on light pollution," according to their website. "Founded in 1988, IDA is the first organization to call attention to the hazards of light pollution, and in 24 years of operation our accomplishments have been tremendous.”

“Our approach of public awareness and extensive partnerships is improving nighttime lighting on six continents. IDA acts on numerous issues to create a platform as expansive as the sky itself.”

Sedona’s recent accomplishment in being designated an International Dark Sky Community may have benefits beyond those noted by Sedona community leaders, the IDA and those working to reduce light pollution in the U.S. and worldwide.

MYSTERIOUS CONNECTIONS

The moon, stars, planets, meteors, comets and amazing views of our Milky Way galaxy may not be the only fascinating things in Sedona’s night skies. The area has long been known for interesting and unusual energy phenomena emanating from the red earth and red rock as well as unidentified lights and objects in the region’s skies.

And there could be a connection.

Research has indicated that the Sedona area rests on unique geological formations that include high levels of iron oxide in the region’s sandstone and limestone, combined with volcanic basalt embedded with high quantities of quartz. This combination is believed to affect Earth's natural magnetic energy in the Sedona region. Quartz crystals themselves emit magnetic forces as well.

Additionally, ancient volcanic activity in the Sedona region has created tunnel-like “plugs,” now filled with a different mineral composition, which “tend to produce intense, somewhat ‘circular’ magnetic anomalies,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

In Sedona, "Geologic structures often produce small magnetic fields that 'distort' the main magnetic field of the Earth," according to the USGS.

These geological and magnetic conditions are believed by some people to be the source of the so-called energy “vortexes” in Sedona. Visitors from around the U.S. and around the world come to Sedona to explore and experience these alleged unusual forces which are believed by some to affect human consciousness.

The vortexes may be the outflow and inflow of Earth's natural magnetic energy, changed by the iron oxide and quartz in the region, then emerging through the volcanic plugs and returning to the ground nearby. That's the view of some researchers like electrical engineer Benjamin Lonetree. He has examined Sedona’s geology and its apparent effect on human consciousness.

Could the factors affecting Sedona’s magnetic fields also have traits similar to a natural transistor, transmitter or receiver? Lonetree speculates that this is possible.

If that is the case, other unusual or anomalous sightings in Sedona’s skies could be connected in some way.

One thing seems certain – Sedona residents and visitors looking up into the night sky will have an excellent view of whatever is above, from the glorious cosmos to interesting anomalous lights and objects that we are learning more about.

What better place for such a connection than planet Earth’s newest International Dark Sky Community?