Wide, open spaces. Big skies. Stars that just won’t quit.
That describes the landscape and sky here in the western part of the country.
But that feeling of awe that one glance up at the night sky provides in Jackson Hole could actually be even grander, said Mike Cavaroc, a professional photographer and a board member of Wyoming Stargazing.
“A lot of people see 2,000 stars in the sky, but you should be able to see thousands more here,” Cavaroc told the News&Guide.
“That’s due to light pollution,” he said. “There is more urban lighting downtown that’s not conducive to protecting the night sky.”
To raise awareness of light pollution and celebrate the valley’s beautiful skyscapes, Wyoming Stargazing will host a kickoff event Thursday for its Save Our Night Skies campaign.
“Our UpYard,” co-sponsored by the Center of Wonder, starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Theater Gallery at the Center for the Arts.
A lunchtime event at 12:30 p.m. Friday will include a talk in the center conference room by Phil Cameron from Energy Conservation Works and a solar-gazing demonstration by the stargazing group.
Thursday’s opening reception will feature local artists, a silent auction of painted telescopes, the screening of Cavaroc’s 12-minute documentary “Reclaiming the Night Sky” and stargazing opportunities. A portion of the proceeds from art and telescope sales will benefit the Center of Wonder and Wyoming Stargazing.
The art show highlights the work of more than a dozen local artists who have created pieces depicting what organizers call our “upyard.”
“Instead of your backyard look up to your upyard,” said Cavaroc. “It’s the same concept as a backyard. It’s something everybody shares and should work harder to take better care of.”
Lyndsay McCandless, executive director of the Center of Wonder, said that to her, upyard is that moment of looking up in amazement.
“I was curious about how our artists in Jackson interpret our upyard as a source of wonder,” she said. “The art show is a natural fit with Wyoming Stargazing and Mike’s documentary.”
McCandless reached out to artists in the valley and has 16 participating in this show. The only requirement she gave them was to illustrate how they were inspired by our night sky.
The works range from a large, encaustic painting of the night by Pamela Gibson to the deep-sky astrophotography of Mike Adler to Jenny Dowd’s whimsical drawings of proposed star-catching devices.
The Save Our Night Skies campaign aims to raise money to build a public observatory and planetarium here, and to create awareness of light pollution and how to end it.
“This UpYard event is a great way for us to raise awareness of the night sky and of the problems associated with light pollution here in Jackson Hole,” said Samuel Singer, executive director of Wyoming Stargazing.
“Even though Jackson is a small town, there is still light pollution,” said Singer. “You go a little ways out of town and the sky is even more brilliant. We want that to return here.”
Singer said his group was able to secure a portable planetarium for the event that will be located on the lawn of the arts center from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday for stargazing. The group also offers free community stargazing opportunities twice monthly at the center.
On Thursday, Cavaroc’s documentary will be playing on a loop. For Friday’s daytime event he will present it as well as a teaser for a longer documentary he is working on, also titled “Reclaiming the Night Sky.” The short version was shot in 2014 and is more Jackson Hole-specific.
Cavaroc’s longer film will be a more involved documentary about preserving the night sky for “all of the reasons that we can’t not preserve it,” he said.
The two-day UpYard event is sure to educate and inspire people about what happens above when the sun goes down.
“For me this show is about reminding people of those moments of wonder,” McCandless said. “We need to remember to look up and see and appreciate everything that we are so fortunate to have here.”