Did you know there is an International Dark-Sky Association? Well there is! And it’s a global organisation that stretches from North America to New Zealand. The IDA states the sky is, “one half of the entire planet’s natural environment.”
Their award-winning International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education. This program offers five types of designation:
For millennia, the night sky has been a source of wonder, mystery and guidance.
Ada Blair is a psychotherapist, student of ecopsychology. (Ecopsychology is distinguished from conventional psychology as it focuses on studying the emotional bond between humans and the Earth.) Ada is also a regular visitor of the Isle of Sark, which is the smallest of the four main Channel Islands. Sark is a designated Dark Sky Community, where cars and street lights are banned, helping to make the perfect environment for viewing the night sky.
The fields of ecopsychology and environmental psychology look at how encounters with nature may be beneficial and transformative and Ada was interested to understand more about how the inhabitants of Sark felt about and responded to their incredible night sky. What she discovered through her quantitative research was:
But what is it about star gazing and the moon that captivates us so? The BBC’s Linda Geddes, delves into the lunar cycle to see what’s behind the mystery of the moon that’s fascinated us for millennia in her 2019 article ‘The Mood-Altering Power of the Moon’.
For centuries, people have believed that the Moon affects human behaviour. The word lunacy derives from the Latin lunaticus, meaning “moonstruck”. The Moon affects Earth in a couple of ways:
However, in 2017, Thomas Wehr, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, published a paper describing 17 patients with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, who showed an uncanny regularity in their episodes of illness.
“The thing that struck me about these cycles was that they seemed uncannily precise in a way that one would not necessarily expect of a biological process… It led me to wonder if there was some kind of external influence that was operating on these cycles.”
Wehr was thorough in his study of his bipolar patients, in some cases tracking the dates of their mood episodes over the course of years. He discovered that his patients' mood fluctuations appeared to synchronise with the moons' (roughly) two-week cycles. It was noted that rhythms were interrupted by ‘supermoons’ when the orbit brings the moon particularly close to the Earth.
Another possibility is that patients are responding to the Moon’s gravitational pull in the same way the oceans do: through tidal forces. “Humans are made out of water, but the pull is so weak that it would be difficult to see how that would work from a physical point of view,” says Bambos Kyriacou, a behavioural geneticist at the University of Leicester, UK. “These are incredibly small changes, which can only be detected with extremely sensitive devices, but now there are over 200 publications to support this,” says Joachim Fisahn, a biophysicist at the Max Planck Institute of Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany.
So the debate continues! To read Linda’s article in full, click here.
I for one love star gazing and the wonders of the moon. Absorbing the summer evenings as the sun sets and the fragrance of jasmine and honeysuckle drift on the breeze is heaven. As the skies darken and a tapestry of stars light the sky I feel the enormity of the universe and how we are part of it.
And don’t forget this year’s Perseid meteor shower which is active between 17 July and 24 August. This year the peak falls on the night of the 12th and before dawn on 13 August. Make sure to head out at dusk, allow 15 mins for your eyes to adjust, get comfy and enjoy the show.
Wishing you a lovely August.
Lots of love, Zoë xx
Source: darksky.org | bbc.com | Photo Credit: Greg Rakozy @unsplash