Dark Sky Initiative

The Solution To Light Pollution!
Light Pollution wastes $5 MILLION nightly, contributing to global warming!

No Excuses! No Exceptions! No Compromises!

Launch a Dark Sky Revolution Where You Live Tonight and allow yourself to watch the Full Moon!

It is time to stir some stew and end our light pollution delusion...
Revolutionary change is coming to the Dark Sky Initiative Website. Watch for it!

About . . . The Dark Sky Initiative

THE Dark Sky Initiative (DSI) is my personal and passionate venture to
rescue starlight and the magnificent Milky Way from light pollution.
AT least 25% of all business lights and streetlights are unnecessary and
could be turned off! America is utterly awash in excessive, extravagant night light,
A BLIGHT OF WASTEFUL LIGHT! And you and I are paying for it--$5 Million every night!

WHAT will you do about it? If you do nothing, it will only get worse!

AS a lifelong urban stargazer I’ve bellyached about light pollution every
clear night. One night, whilst peering through my telescope, I had an
epiphany! I decided to stop grumbling and get busy!

UPON retiring from teaching astronomy in 1999, I formed the Dark Sky
Initiative, my nonprofit educational effort to reclaim a dark night sky.

WHEN I started teaching astronomy in 1971, my ninth grade students could
see the Milky Way over Ames, Iowa. But by 1995 the majestic Milky Way
had vanished in the glare and glow of streetlights and business lights.

NOW the Milky Way is slightly visible again overhead. My efforts to restore the
Milky Way emphasize aggressive common sense and voluntary actions, not laws.

WHAT are you going to do about it? Please explore all the links on my Dark Sky
Initiative website! Then trigger a DARK SKY REVOLUTION in your community!
Thank you!

The Essence of . . .The Dark Sky Initiative

DARK HAPPENS! But only when you make it happen!
THE Dark Sky Initiative (DSI) is resolved to restore a dark sky over America without resorting to DO-IT-OR-ELSE! lighting laws.

LIGHTING laws and ordinances FORCE people to act, generating controversy and confrontation.

SO, how do we start? With LIGHTSCAPES. What’s a LIGHTSCAPE?

EVERY community in America already has a lightscape, though most are NOT very star-friendly. Think Las Vegas--the light pollution capital of the cosmos--the biggest, brightest, baddest lightscape in the world! AND...

WE won’t change it!

BUT across America are thousands of communities under skies cloaked by LEAKY LIGHTS--inefficient, excessively bright, wasteful lights shining up in the night sky, not down on people and property, providing safety and security for all of us.

AND every town in America (yours, too) has some good lights--SMART LIGHTS--that shine down on the targets of safety and security, not up into the night sky. Use these SMART LIGHTS to show your community how to save the Milky Way.

I will not lie to you. Reclaiming dark skies over America will not be easy, but you can start a DARK SKY REVOLUTION in your community tonight.


The Dark Sky Initiative is an educational endeavor, promoting AWARENESS and ACTION. We advocate for LIGHTSCAPES and SMART LIGHTS, not controversial and confrontational laws and ordinances.

We are resolved to restore the Milky Way to its former
luster and luminosity by promoting:


AMERICA is a land of laws, all triggered by a REVOLUTION! But in my humble opinion some laws--lighting laws and ordinances-- cause more problems than they solve.

MOST Americans don’t like to be told what to do; don’t like the threat and coercion of laws, regulations, ordinances. Understandable. After all, America started with a REVOLUTION! Few people follow speed laws. What makes you think they'll follow, or even know lighting laws exist in your town?

IT is very difficult and publicly visible to legislate and enforce quality of life issues, such as proper nighttime lighting.

I believe we can rescue the Milky Way from wasteful light pollution using voluntary actions, especially if we use common sense, not confrontation.

BUT you must be willing to act, willing to ignite a DARK SKY REVOLUTION in your own community to save the Milky Way.

MONEY may compel you to start a DARK SKY REVOLUTION where you live! Americans waste about $2 Billion every year--$5 Million every night--lighting up the night sky, not people and property, the targets of safety and security!

THE DARK SKY INITIATIVE is not an organization...no dues, no fees, no membership drives, no subscriptions, no staff, no devisive group politics, no bureaucracy, no, no, no... Well, you get the point. I wish to work alone.

MY solitary effort is not the ONLY way to save starlight. There are other ways. If you can invent a better, faster, less intrusive way... GO FOR IT! Above all, initiate a DARK SKY REVOLUTION in your community!

The Dark Sky Initiative Pledge

With no disrespect intended:
I pledge devotion to the stars
of the majestic Milky Way Galaxy
and to a dark night sky in which
they shine; one cosmos, overhead,
clearly visible, with liberty from
light and dark skies for all.


Who is... Milky Way Man, Dark Sky Guy, Dark Sky Knight?

Hello. My name is Jack Troeger, a.k.a. Milky Way Man, Dark Sky Guy, Dark Sky Knight!

I am a lifelong amateur astronomer and retired (1999) high school earth science (astronomy, geology, meteorology) teacher from Ames, Iowa, the home of 50,000+ future dark sky residents in central Iowa.

When I retired, my students could not see the Milky Way over Ames.

Several students said,

"Why don’t you do something about light pollution, Mr. Troeger?"

So I am doing something about it!
I believe my efforts are the: SOLUTION TO LIGHT POLLUTION ™

I created my nonprofit Dark Sky Initiative to reclaim starlight over the country with my VISION of dark skies by the year 2020.

Now, the Milky Way is slowly reappearing on clear, dark, moonless nights over Ames. Some local people resist the coming DARK SKY REVOLUTION, but will eventually realize starlight is better than wasteful light!

You can do the same in your community.

I taught nearly 30 years in the Ames School District. I own several telescopes. Students congregated in my backyard to observe, and I taught them to use my scopes. Parents came, too. Everyone enjoyed using a telescope.

One night, whilst observing alone, an idea slapped me (WHACK!) in the face! "OUCH!" My school district could buy a bunch of telescopes. The students could learn to use them then take them home on clear nights to cruise the cosmos on their own.

Every student sees the wee world through a microscope at least once during his/her educational career. So why not a telescope or two or 10 or 20?

Every school has 10 or more microscopes, but schools never seem to have enough money, so I soon realized that the only way to attain my dream of SCOPES IN SCHOOLS was to find funding elsewhere.

To make a long, loo-o--o---g story short, 30 telescopes were donated (anonymously) to Ames High School in 1996-97, in memory of Carl Sagan, the people's astronomer! These are fine quality telescopes, not toys!

Now, ninth grade earth science students learn how to use the scopes and then take them home to DO astronomy, to observe the moon, planets, stars, nebulas, galaxies, star clusters, etc.

DOING astronomy is much more interesting than reading about it in a boring textbook or listening to lectures.

Parents and other residents get involved,too, because most of them never had a telescope to look through when they were in school. Did you?

There's never been a better time to make telescopes a part of your community's high school(s). There are more telescopes on the market than ever before, and many are portable, inexpensive and perfect for students (and parents) to use.

And best of all, when the students and parents in your community see all the wasteful light pollution spraying skyward in your community, they'll immediately want to do something to extinguish it!

Naturally, astronomers are vexed by all the wasteful light in the sky. But stolen starlight must be unacceptable to NONastronomers, too. Every person who has ever seen the night sky chock full of stars but now is lucky to see only a handful of stars overhead must press forward with all possible dispatch!

Don't wait for astronomers to cleanse the sky of wasteful light... Please, act now...


Please read all the links on my website.

Sunny Days and Milky Way Nights.

Jack Troeger
Dark Sky Institute


YES, YOU ARE A STARGAZER. We are all stargazers. Your ancestors were stargazers, too. The stars you see tonight are the same stars your ancestors saw thousands of years ago. Imagine your great, great, great, great, great grandparents gazing silently into the dark sky realm, awed by the starry spectacle aloft.

Imagine how dark their sky must have been. No streetlights, no business lights, no lights at all to intrude upon their magnificent view of the cosmos.

Stargazing is unique among human activities. It bonds you, it links you, unites you, fuses you to all the people who have ever lived on this planet.

Every time you gaze into the heavens you reaffirm your cosmic connection. You are the stuff of stars. The atoms that shape you were once the dust and gas of ancient stars. The stars are your ancestors.

You have a lifetime to observe the sky, so why not start your cosmic cruise tonight? Stand at the bow of your own imaginary starship, stretch your curiosity, and let the waves of starlight wash over you. Each observation you make of the starry sky becomes a discovery as you sail the cosmic sea.

Observe objects of interest regularly, repeatedly, frequently during the year. You'll soon behold the rhythm of the sky. You'll discover its cadence, its tempo, its pulse, its patterns. You'll marvel at the Moon as she cycles from phase to phase during her monthly dance with Earth. You'll ponder planetary gyrations along the zodiac.

With patience, you’ll soon track and trace the trails of stars arching across the sky. Each season a new cast of cosmic characters and creatures will delight you as they perform upon your celestial stage. Once known, the constellations and stars will greet and gratify you all the years of your life.

Stargazing is a free, fun, family activity. It strengthens and nurtures family bonds. Invite family members outside under the sky dome. Create your own family constellations, mythology, history, legends, lore, and fables.

Form an observing group with friends / relatives / classmates to share skills and stories. The universe beckons, it calls to you. Listen, heed its lullaby, go outside, explore!

Sky watchers have inherited a rich heritage of skylore collected by hundreds of generations of famous and nameless sky watchers. You can continue that heritage by starting your own cosmic keepsake.

Start an observing diary...
...and imagine your child or grandchild discovering your star diary some clear night in the 21st or 22d Century, taking it outside, and observing the same objects you saw 25, 50, or 100 years earlier. Keep it and pass it on to them; they will cherish it, and use it to help themselves to night sky wonders.

The modest astronomical seeds you sow tonight may blossom and dazzle your descendants.

Nature intended the night sky to be dark. It is not. This is unacceptable! Our distant ancestors saw the sky in absolute, consummate darkness; but our night sky is littered with light.

We are on the brink of a celestial catastrophe!

Sound serious?

It is. Listen. We need a dark sky revolution! NOW!

We are the first life forms on Earth capable of celestial extinction. We have the means and the will, it seems, to vanquish the night. We possess the ultimate antidarkness weapon. We call it LIGHT--bazillowatts of blazing, glaring, wanton, reckless, upturned light! And worse, we seem obsessed with using it to destroy starlight!

What value the night? What worth the sky? What merit the stars? Why save these twinkling beacons from heaven's portal? Have we not disturbed every ecosystem on this planet in search of money? We slash and burn rainforests, contaminate water, desecrate air, and foul land.

Is not the sky a worthy sanctuary, refuge, preserve? Must we annihilate the night sky to satisfy our lust for light? Have we no conscience, no restraint? Are we so obsessed with our power, our dominion over Nature, that we must conquer the cosmos?

Tonight, to satisfy our lust for light, large cities will spray fountains of light skyward, and only a few of Nature's brightest luminaries will defy the awful glow. A halo of wasteful light will hover over every small town. Even the sky over farm and field will be tainted by a sea of shimmering security lights. We are trapped in a web of wires and poles, marquees and signs, streetlights, blazing business lights, and billboards beaming wasteful light skyward.

Most people have never seen a truly dark sky. Indeed, so few people know the night sky's starry patterns that many mistake Venus and even the Moon to be the agents of alien abduction, destruction, and extinction!

To behold the starry spectacle of a genuinely dark sky, stargazers are forced to travel ever greater distances to the frontier, the outback, the hinterlands of human colonization, and even there the ghostly specter of our castaway light hovers on the horizon, stalks the stars, and devours the darkness!

What can I do to launch change?

Learn the stars, constellations, lunar phases, planet positions. As you read this: Where is the Moon and what is its phase? Where is the Sun (no fair peeking)? If it's nighttime as you read this, where's the Sun? Can you point to Jupiter? Saturn? Mars? Mercury? Where is the Big Dipper? Orion? Scorpius? Arcturus? Vega? Where is M-31? M-57? Once you are familiar with the sky's lights, you will understand why stargazers savor darkness!
Look at streetlights, business lights, building lights, all lights, during the day and especially at night. Proper lighting shines down, not out in your eyes or up into the sky.
We all need night light for safety and security, but we have become light addicts; yes, we are addicted to using much more light than we need.

Most current lighting fixtures shine up and out, not down. Upturned light is wasteful light, and wasteful light is wasted electricity, wasted energy, wasted fuel, wasted resources, wasted MONEY--your money! That's right! You pay for every beam of light that shines up into space not down on the ground where it is needed.

When you buy any product, the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer all add the cost of their wasteful light to the product's price. You pay for the electricity that the manufacturer uses to shed bazillowatts of wasteful light on his / her buildings, warehouses, distribution centers, etc.

Lighting engineers, architects, and designers are slowly becoming enLIGHTened. Proper lighting designs are available and often less expensive than the older light bombs that spray light up, down, out, around, left, right, and everywhere, not just where it's needed.

Educate yourself about light, light fixtures, lighting designs, lighting laws, and lighting policies. If you don't do it, who will?
Gently, tactfully, persuasively, persistently, eloquently, aggressively, convincingly, tenaciously, relentlessly demand a dark sky. If you don't demand a dark sky, a DARK SKY REVOLUTION, starlight will vanish! We can, we will restore a starry, dark night sky over America!
Carpe Noctem (Seize the Night)!


Yes, why bother trying to save the Milky Way?

Who cares about starlight?

STARS? Bah, Humbug!!
Just a bunch of little white dots in the sky, right?
Well, I’m sure that’s how some people feel about stars, but... Thing is, most good things are not noticed until they disappear! And folks, the stars are about to disappear from the sky! Calendrier lunaire

Can you see the Milky Way from your yard?

Most likely not. Only about 30% of Americans can now see it! We are the first generation of humans capable, and seemingly willing to destroy starlight. All your ancestors enjoyed the heavens. Eliminating starlight is unacceptable!

For thousands of years our ancestors looked up at night in awe of the consummate darkness and star-slathered sky. But we, you and me, all of us, are on a headlong rush to ruin the night sky with wasteful light pollution.

At the rate starlight’s disappearing now, it’ll be extinct by the year 2020! Gone forever! Invisible! Starlight will be nothing more than white dots on computer screens and phony stars projected on planetarium ceilings!

Remember the little stream you played in as a child? Remember the field, the vacant lot you played in? They’re gone! Developed. Turned to houses, Mall-Warts, etc. That’s what’s ahead for the stars, fast fading and soon to vanish.

There’s still time to act! Start a DARK SKY REVOLUTION where you live!

"If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers." --- Joseph Wood Krutch


NOW everyone, nonastronomers and children, too, can measure sky darkness with my easy-to-use dark sky scales:

5-star scale like movie reviewers use.
5-grade scale like teachers use.
All you’ll need is a clear, moonless night, a place where most of the sky is visible overhead and 3 simple steps:

Go outside when the sky is dark (90 minutes after sunset or before sunrise).
Look up and scan the sky for approximately 15 seconds.
Estimate how many stars you see based on the categories below.
star star star star star 5-star sky (Grade A): Zillions of stars and the Milky Way visible from horizon to horizon in a pristine dark night sky, far from city lights! The following sky maps will show you what each season’s sky might look like:

Summer Winter Spring Fall

star star star star 4-star sky (Grade B): Thousands of stars and a hint of the Milky Way visible.

Summer Winter Spring Fall

star star star 3-star sky (Grade C): Hundreds of stars and Milky Way lost in glow of light.

Summer Winter Spring Fall

star star 2-star sky (Grade D): Dozens of stars are visible. No Milky Way visible.

Summer Winter Spring Fall

star 1-star sky (Grade F): Few stars (fewer than 20) are visible.

Summer Winter Spring Fall

Use plus and minus (for grades) and "tenths" of a star to make your dark sky measurement more accurate. . .see below.

In 1995 the night sky over my backyard averaged 3.5 stars (B-). Tonight it will average 4.1 stars (B+). I live in the center of Ames, Iowa, population 50,000 plus. What’s your sky darkness rating?

We cannot hope to restore a 5-star sky (A) over all of America, but we CAN work to reclaim a 4-star sky (B) and preserve 5-star skies (A) where they now exist. Initiate a DARK SKY REVOLUTION in your town! https://www.pleine-lune.org/

Beauty Lost

Ahhh. The Difference A Blackout Makes! During the blackout of August 2003, the magnicent Milky Way popped into view. This photo duo shows the beauty we miss when we clutter the sky with wasteful light! The images are copyright by Todd Carlson and are taken in Goodwood, Ontario, Canada, northeast of Toronto. Left image: during the blackout (approx. 90 secs., 28 mm, f2.8, Fuji 800). Right image: after the blackout (same equipment, 30 secs.).

Please send us your own images of light fixtures, streetlights, and business lights (in the daytime and / or at night) to the Dark Sky Initiative. Let's make three categories:

Include your name and community name and/or state name if you wish. Use digital cameras or even better, use your cell phone cameras, if you're out day or night, and send us an image! DO IT TODAY and show the rest of the world what kind of lighting you have.