Charlestown’s dark, star-filled skies are a treasure for all of Rhode Island

During the power outages that followed Tropical Storm Irene, many in Rhode Island experienced a spectacular, but rare, view of the Milky Way. There is a place in Rhode Island where this celestial show doesn’t have to wait for a blackout. Charlestown’s dark, star-filled skies are a treasure for all of Rhode Island. The astronomers and facilities at Frosty Drew Observatory in Ninigret Park are an educational resource and a tourist attraction.

As more Americans live in areas without a clear view of the stars, dark sky tourism is growing. Our beautiful night sky is threatened by both local and regional light pollution. Protecting the dark skies above Frosty Drew Observatory will take a cooperative effort of local, state, and federal governments.

Throughout history the stars have inspired poetry, they connect us to the universe, they are a part of what makes us human and yet they are dimming in a fog of artificial light. To bring attention to Charlestown’s dark skies and to build public support for their protection, Frosty Drew and the Charlestown Planning Commission are presenting screenings of “The City Dark,” a new feature documentary about light pollution and the disappearing night sky.

Featuring stunning astrophotography and a cast of eclectic scientists, philosophers, historians, and lighting designers, “The City Dark” is the definitive story of light pollution and the disappearing stars.

The film asks a simple question: what do we lose when we lose the night? Those who know Charlestown’s stars might ask what will Rhode Island lose if we lose this last beautiful oasis of dark along our Atlantic coast?

“The City Dark” is showing Friday at 8 p.m. at the Frosty Drew Sky Theater, 62 Park Lane, in Charlestown’s Ninigret Park. Please register for Friday’s show by sending an email to astronomer@frostydrew.org, as seating is limited. A 6 p.m. show is full and 8 p.m. is filling fast.

Additional public screenings will be presented Thursday, Dec. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 17, both at 7 p.m. at Kettle Pond Visitor’s Center at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge, 50 Bend Road, Charlestown. All shows are free. Atrailer of the film can be viewed at www.thecitydark.com/#/Trailer.

If the skies are clear on Friday, the Frosty Drew telescopes and astronomers will be available as they are every Friday night for viewing the stars, distant galaxies, shining nebulae, the planets and their moons, and maybe a passing comet. Don’t miss this heavenly show.

Ruth Platner
The writer is chair of the Charlestown Planning Commission