SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah has been awarded $250,000 to establish a new undergraduate minor in dark sky studies, which will explore the impacts of artificial light at night through a broad range of disciplines.
The gift comes from the W. M. Keck Foundation, which was established in 1954 by the late founder of the Superior Oil Co.
Housed in the College of Architecture and Planning, the minor is open to all students across the university who will explore issues through the lens of science, including in public health, urban planning and engineering, and the humanities, from religion to history and philosophy.
Students will also participate in field-based research, including developing new technology to measure light pollution. In subsequent courses, students will collect, map and analyze data within communities along the Colorado Plateau interested in improving their night skies. The students will identify lighting hot spots and implement creative solutions, such as designing and installing cost-effective fixtures that address community issues.
The minor, which the university says is the first of its kind in the United States, is the next step for the U.-based Consortium for Dark Sky Studies, the first research center in the world focused on the interdisciplinary connections of artificial light and dark skies.
According to the U., the minor will require 21 hours of coursework, including nine credit hours in three new interdisciplinary core courses tentatively named public health and artificial light; arts, humanities and the night skies; and astronomy and culture. Students will also take four electives from departments across the U. to explore a particular aspect of dark sky studies. It will also offer research opportunities for undergraduates.