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Look Up! Celebrate International Dark-Sky Week This Weekend

The Milky Way by Mike Taylor
Astrophotographer Mike Taylor took this image of the Milky Way on May 27, 2014. (Image credit: © <a href=""> Mike Taylor </a> - <a href="">Taylor Photography</a>)

A Maine photographer is joining forces with dark-sky advocates to say that people must be careful about where they direct their lights.

Mike Taylor, a landscape astrophotographer, says he often has to travel long distances to capture the stunning shots he is getting known for in shares on Twitter and other social networks.

Taylor's work in New England and efforts to find dark-sky areas often led him to situations in which orange light from city lights blocked out his view of the stars. His efforts to overcome that eventually led him to the International Dark-Sky Association, which is promoting International Dark-Sky Week between April 13 and 19. [Dark-Sky Week: A Photo Celebration (Gallery)]

"I've had many people on social media respond to shots of the Milky Way by asking me where they could go to see it or if it was real," Taylor said in a statement. "Real? Yes. Where can they see it? Sometimes it's necessary to travel up to 50 to 100 miles [80 to 160 kilometers] to escape the haze of light pollution that blocks our view of the Milky Way."

While light is an annoyance to stargazers, it can also hurt the ecosystem, the International Dark-Sky Association says. Light can disrupt movements and migrations of sea turtles and birds, cause adverse health effects in humans (the effects were not specified in a press release), and waste energy and money.

Several areas in North America and Europe have adopted dark-sky preserves to protect astronomical imagery and the local wildlife.

The celebration of Dark-Sky Week started in 2003 out of the efforts of a high school student, Jennifer Barlow. This year's celebration takes place during the International Year of Light 2015, an initiative from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO says the initiative "will highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in their lives."

To learn more about International Dark-Sky Week, visit:

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.