Are any of you nearing retirement (as I am) or already retired who might be interested in moving to an astronomy-oriented retirement community? If you are, I encourage you to join the moderated Groups.io discussion group Dark-Sky Communities at
I am working to establish such a community and would value your input and assistance. That work involves extensive research, networking, writing articles in various publications to reach a wider audience, finding a suitable developer, and seeking benefactors.
Some characteristics of the community I envision include:
- Rural location with a dark night sky, but not too far from a city with decent medical facilities, preferably to the northeast or northwest;
- Location with an abundance of clear nights and mild winters, probably in Arizona, New Mexico, or West Texas;
- Lighting within the community that does not interfere with astronomical activities, strictly enforced;
- Community is owned and operated by a benefit corporation or cooperative that will rent a house or apartment to each resident;
- Observatories will be available for rental by interested residents who will equip them;
- Pro-am collaborative research opportunities will be developed and nurtured;
- A community observatory and a public observatory for astronomy outreach will be constructed and maintained;
- Lodging will be available for visitors and guests;
- There will be opportunities for on-site income operating and maintaining the community or, alternatively, a reduction in monthly rental fees.
Many of us have spent a significant amount of time and energy over the years trying to rein in light pollution in our respective communities and in the wider world, with varying degrees of success. Those efforts should continue, but the grim reality is that light pollution is continuing to get worse almost everywhere.
The opportunity to live in a community of varied interests but with a common appreciation for the night sky and a natural nighttime environment will appeal to many of us. Furthermore, a dark-sky community will afford us opportunities to show the world at large a better way to live.
Traditionally, in the United States at least, if one wants to live under a dark and starry night sky, your only options are to purchase land and build a house on it, or purchase an existing rural home. Not only is buying and maintaining rural real estate unaffordable or impractical for many, many would prefer to live in a rural community, provided that the night sky and nighttime environment are vigorously protected. Rental will also make it easier to move into and out of the community as circumstances change.
- A small community (hereafter referred to as a dark sky community) can thrive without the need for streetlights or any other dusk-to-dawn lighting
- A dark sky community would appeal to people who value the night sky and a natural nighttime environment
- It will probably be many years before the majority of people will accept life without dusk-to-dawn outdoor lighting
- A dark sky community must be located far enough away from neighboring communities and other significant light sources that the night sky and nighttime environment will not be adversely affected, either now or in the foreseeable future
- It is better to live in community than in isolation
- Community Attributes
- A dark sky community should be multi-generational, but since rural employment options are limited, moving to a dark sky community may be easier for retired or semi-retired folks
- A dark sky community should be affordable, with a variety of housing options (units that can be rented, for example)
- An observatory commons area should be developed for observing and include more than one observatory for use by members of the community
- The dark sky community should engage in an ambitious educational outreach program, including the operation of an astronomy resort and astro-tourism business
- The business end of the community should be a nonprofit corporation or cooperative that operates the astronomy resort and rental properties
- The community should share resources as much as possible, freeing residents from the financial burden of having to individually own everything they need or use
- The dark sky community should engage in an ambitious program of collaborative astronomical research and data collection, working collaboratively within the community and with amateur and professional astronomers outside the community
- Community Location
- The most affordable option would be to “convert” an existing rural subdivision or small town into a dark sky community, current residents willing, of course!
- The best location for a dark sky community would be within, or adjacent to, a protected natural area such as a state or national park
- Recognizing that there would be distinct advantages in siting a dark sky community reasonably close to a town or city with medical facilities, it would be best (for astronomical reasons) for the dark sky community to be located southeast or southwest of the larger community
- In an age of technological wonders such as digital imaging, computer-controlled telescopes, remote observing, and space astronomy, we recognize that there is still value in the experience of “firsthand astronomy” both for ourselves and our guests
For greater detail, see my astronomy village proposal for Mirador Astronomy Village. I welcome your comments and ideas here.