National Dark-Sky Week

National Dark-Sky Week (NDSW), held during the week of the new moon in April,[1] is a week during which people worldwide turn out their lights in order to observe the beauty of the night sky without light pollution. This event was founded in 2003 by high school student Jennifer Barlow of Midlothian, Virginia and its popularity and participation increases every year.[2] It has been endorsed by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the Astronomical League, and Sky & Telescope (S&T).[3]

National Dark-Sky Week (NDSW)
GenreAstronomy-related events and competitions
FrequencyWeek of the new moon in April
FounderJennifer Barlow
Most recent2018


The goals of the event are to:

  • Temporarily reduce light pollution and raise awareness about its effects on the night sky,
  • Encourage the use of better lighting systems that direct light downward instead of into the sky, and
  • Promote the study of astronomy.

This event always occurs in April, during the week of the new moon so that the sky can be as dark as possible for optimum viewing conditions.

Jennifer Barlow states, "The night sky is a gift of such tremendous beauty that should not be hidden under a blanket of wasted light. It should be visible so that future generations do not lose touch with the wonder of our universe." Barlow explains, "It is my wish that people see the night sky in all of its glory, without excess light in the sky as our ancestors saw it hundreds of years ago."[3]


Willing participants in this project turn off all unnecessary lighting indoors and outdoors sources in order to reduce light pollution of the night sky.

The International Dark-sky Association encourages light users to take precautions against outdoor light pollution by:[4]

  • Using outdoor light only when needed
  • Confine light to specific areas
  • Be aware that lights need only be as bright as it is necessary
  • Reducing the amount of blue light emissions used
  • Use of lighting that faces downward, in order to avoid over illumination, called fully shielded fixtures

Types of light pollution

Light pollution is a broad term used to define excess artificial light that brightens the night sky. Types of light pollution which include:

  • Skyglow, a hazy glow produced by the reflection water molecules in the air that encompasses cities which prevent the night sky to be fully seen.[5]
  • Light trespass is a condition in which light is oriented into areas in which it is not needed. A common example is street lighting projecting in all directions including the sky which creates a hazy reflection upon the night sky, making it difficult for star observation.[6]
  • Over-illumination is the excess supply of light used beyond what is necessary for safety and efficiency.
  • Light clutter which refers to the common organizational groupings of lights in cities and roadways.
  • Glare is an impeding bright light which cause temporary impairments to human sight. There are three classifications of glare, blinding glare, disability glare and discomfort glare. (See Light pollution)

Implications of light pollution

Light pollution is the adverse effects of artificial light.[7]

Affected parties of light pollution include:[8]


By increasing the number of participants, the quality of viewing the sky and stars will be temporarily improved. This is a benefit to astronomers that are faced with light pollution issues such as light trespass and skyglow.[6]

Nocturnal wildlife:
Several animal species have been documented to be affected by light pollution. The glare of street lights cause distraction to nocturnal birds in flight leading to bird crashes into sky scrapers and buildings. The use of light may also cause birds to reproduce or migrate too early. The feeding behavior of insects, bats, sea turtles, fish, replies reflect alterations by artificial light. Sea turtles mistake the glow of electric lights for the shimmer of the ocean, leading them to flock outside of their nest into hazardous areas.[9]

Human circadian rhythm and sleep patterns:

Exposure to light during traditional sleeping hours have are documented to cause disruptions in the circadian rhythm that regulate human sleep cycles.[8] Biologists have noted a decrease in the amount of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates the Circadian rhythm, in humans that are exposed to light pollution of the night sky.[10] In order to prevent major impact, biologists suggest to increase the amount of natural light exposure during the day and decrease the amount of electrical light consumed at night.[10]

Growth patterns of plants and trees:

The growing pattern of trees have been disrupted and less adjusted to seasonal changes in weather and light exposure.[8]

Waste of economic resources:

Leaving lights on that are not in use can lead to the waste of economic cost expenditures. Conservation and efficiency is necessary for environmental responsibility.[8] The invention of LED lights, dimmers, motion sensors and times have reduced the amount of energy used.[11]


The best way to take action to promote dark skies is to get involved in local government. There are templates for light ordinances that can legally ban the use of harmful lights and limit commercial lighting to a specific curfew. Currently, there are no nationwide standards regarding light pollution. However, select cities across the United States and Canada are taking initiative to facilitate dark sky cities in order to reduce light pollution and view the night sky within city limits.

Event dates

Timeline of Dark Sky Week events
Sr. Year Week New moon (UTC) Notes Reference
1 2003 1 April 2003
2 2004 19 April 2004
3 2005 8 April 2005
4 2006 27 April 2006
5 2007 17 April 2007
6 2008 6 April 2008 In 2008, the organizers coordinated the week with Earth Hour. [1]
7 2009 April 20–26, 2009 25 April 2009 International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009)
In 2009, the United States Dark Sky Week becomes International Dark Sky Week
8 2010 April 4–10, 2010 13–14 April 2010 [14][15]
9 2011 3 April 2011 The world's first International Dark Sky City was founded in Flagstaff, AZ [16][17]
10 2012 21 April 2012
11 2013 10 April 2013
12 2014 April 20–26, 2014 29 April 2014 [18]
13 2015 April 13–18, 2015 18 April 2015 International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015)
14 2016 April 4-10, 2016 7 April 2016
15 2017 April 22-28, 2017 26 April 2017 UTC The first day (April 22) corresponded with Earth Day.
16 2018 16 April 2018
  indicates upcoming event

See also


  1. "What Is National Dark Sky Week?". Wise Geek. Conjecture Corporation. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  2. "Jennifer Barlow: Dark-sky Devotee - Sky & Telescope". Sky & Telescope. Retrieved 2015-12-06.
  3. Bobra, Monica. "Jennifer Barlow: Dark-sky Devotee". Sky & Telescope. Sky Publishing of New Track Media.
  4. "Outdoor Lighting Basics". International Dark-Sky Association. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  5. "What is sky glow? | Light Pollution | Lighting Answers | NLPIP". Retrieved 2015-11-23.
  6. "Light Pollution Impacts Animals and Environment". Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  7. "Light Pollution Impacts Animals and Environment". Retrieved 2015-10-20.
  8. Chepesiuk, Ron (2009-01-01). "Missing the Dark: Health Effects of Light Pollution". Environmental Health Perspectives. 117 (1): A20–A27. doi:10.1289/ehp.117-a20. ISSN 0091-6765. PMC 2627884. PMID 19165374.
  9. "Light Pollution Effects on Wildlife and Ecosystems". International Dark-Sky Association. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  10. "Human Health". International Dark-Sky Association. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  11. "Light Pollution Wastes Energy and Money". International Dark-Sky Association. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  12. "International Dark Sky Week". Astronomers Without Borders. AWB. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  13. "International Dark Sky Week". Astronomers Without Borders. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  14. "International Dark Sky Week". Astronomers Without Borders. AWB. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  15. "How to participate in International Dark-Sky Week". Dark Skies Awareness. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
  16. "Flagstaff: The World's First Dark Sky City". Dark Sky Diary. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  17. "International Dark Sky Communities". International Dark-Sky Association. Retrieved 2015-12-07.
  18. "International Dark Sky Week April 20-26, 2014". Dark Sky. IDA. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
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