There’s a new dark sky urban place, one of only three in total, and it’s the largest in the world. Palos Preserves is just outside the Chicago city limits, but still in Cook County, on the south side and was officially named by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) in late August.
Each year IDA recognizes Dark Sky Locations around the world as part of its program to encourage communities to protect the night skies. Palos Preserves is near Chicago, an urban setting with lots of artificial light at night, which makes its name unique and rare.
Adler Planetarium played an important role in helping Palos Preserves earn this award through data collection, night sky monitoring, and guidance on light pollution. As part of the application process, teenagers from the area helped the Far Horizons Stratonauts program collect and compile data using images from the International Space Station, satellites orbiting the earth, and special cameras they had built to monitor the night sky .
Help from the Eagles also came in the form of advice and guidance regarding a lighting management plan for the Forest Preserves of Palos Preserves in Cook County. Numerous organizations, including the Eagle in Chicago, have made great strides in providing advice on lighting to reduce light pollution across the city. Before the Adler was temporarily closed due to COVID, the Adler debuted with Chicago’s Night Sky, an exhibit dedicated to our connection with the stars that also highlighted ways to preserve the dark skies.
The data showed that the park emits 1,000 times less light than downtown Chicago, a difference that is clearly visible in nighttime satellite imagery. As one of the largest parks in the county’s forest protection program, Palos Preserves covers an area of over six thousand hectares and offers plenty of space for stargazers.
The Forest Preserve is currently working with the eagle to organize nighttime stargazing and astronomy-based events to celebrate the dark sky’s new status. Outside of these events, guests can take advantage of the dark sky through overnight accommodations that are organized directly through the forest reserve.