Timpanogos Cave National Monument was certified by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as an Urban Night Sky Place on Sept. 18th, boasting starry night views even with its close proximity to metropolitan areas.
“In order to be certified, you have to retrofit all of your lighting in accordance with IDA’s lighting principles that are required via the guidelines. The Timpanogos Cave does a fantastic job of that,” said IDA’s program manager Adam Dalton.
Dalton said mountains surrounding the cave push out light pollution and offer people a chance to view the night sky that is not possible in the city.
Cami McKinney, Timpanogos Cave’s Integrated Resource Manager, said a big part of receiving the certification was educating people about dark skies and what they do for us.
“Our Urban Night Sky Place certification is about teaching people the importance of dark skies. We as a park are committed to at least protecting the little bit of contribution that we have to protect,” McKinney said.
In a regular year without COVID, McKinney said they partner with the Utah Valley Astronomy Club and the U.S. Forest Service to host monthly dark sky parties. Often several hundred people attend to look through telescopes and learn about the night sky.
“We’re teaching people how to read the stars, and we’re teaching them how important it is to be able to see them,” McKinney said.
Timpanogos Cave education specialist AnnaMarie Brantley said their “passion for protection” is what makes the monument stand out. She explained there are negative outcomes of losing the dark and it’s their goal to educate and do their best to preserve dark skies.
“We are aware of the consequences of losing the dark, we are aware of the health, and the safety and the animal consequences. So we really want to make sure that we are educating people on those and that people are interacting with us about those issues,” Brantley said.
Brantley said people’s connection to the stars is another important thing that the Timpanogos Cave offers. She said one of her favorite parts is when grown adults see planets and stars through a telescope for the first time.
“They get to a telescope and they see the rings of Saturn and it’s there. It’s like someone put a printed picture in front of the telescope, and to watch them get so excited and so curious is something else,” Brantley said.