CLUTE — Astronomer Robert “Bob” Bohley might best be recognized in the community for his work at the Center for the Arts and Sciences, but his love for astronomy goes beyond being just a planetarium volunteer, stretching high into the starry night sky.
The National Park Service recently named Bohley as a recipient of the George and Helen Hartzog Award for his work at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, located more than 200 miles south of Denver, Colorado. The award goes to only seven people each year across the National Park Service.
Bohley was recognized for his role in getting the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve declared as an “International Dark Sky Park.” The International Dark-Sky Association works to help reduce light pollution and protect the night skies for both current and future generations.
He got involved with the park when staff couldn’t devote such a large amount of time to the lengthy dark sky project, Bohley said.
“For the last four years, I have been working on data gathering,” Bohley said.
For a park to qualify as an International Dark-Sky Park, the darkness of the park’s night sky has to be measured, the park has to manage its own outdoor lighting footprint and programs have to be set in place to educate the public on the importance of preserving the night sky, Bohley said.
Light from homes, businesses, vehicles, parking lots and stadiums can lower the ability of visitors to view stars overhead and can interfere with wildlife, Bohley said.
“The night sky is a natural resource that is 100 percent recoverable,” he said. “Put the light where you need it for safety and security but don’t shine it in the sky.”
Bohley’s work went toward reducing the park’s exterior lighting via his written lighting management plan, which included lighting principles, lighting selection, lighting zones and neighboring communities, he said.
A key part of the plan was changing the park’s night lights to shine in a more downward angle toward the ground, Bohley said.
It is all about managing our country’s outdoor lighting footprint, something he wants to investigate here in Brazoria County, Bohley said.
“The issue we have is the chemical plants all around,” he said. “They are just lit up all crazy. I think we spread way too much light where it is not needed.”
This was a huge passion project for him and she couldn’t be more proud of the work he accomplished, his wife, Carol Bohley, said.
“That is a big deal,” she said. “It has just been a real labor of love.”
Bohley was not aware of the award and his nomination, so she made sure to get all their daughters together for the big moment, Carol Bohley said.
“He didn’t know about it,” she said. “It was a big surprise.”
The award is a humbling honor and he wants to continue to speak out on the importance of getting more parks certified because the next generation deserves a chance to see the planets, stars and galaxies, Bohley said.
All civilizations have looked up in the sky and made stories and he wants to continue that tradition, Bohley said.
“That is important,” he said. “Any light that shines up in the sky is an absolute waste of energy.”