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Boise State gets $1 million from NASA to build partnership with Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve

Grant will fund new astronomer-in-residence

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The Boise State Physics Astronomy outreach program has been awarded $1 million from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)—a grant that will, in part, build a partnership between the university and Idaho’s Central Dark Sky Reserve, the university announced on Friday.

The grant was specifically awarded to Brian Jackson, an associate professor at Boise State University’s physics department. The department will hire an astronomer-in-residence to “spend several weeks in Idaho and in the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, working on public outreach and education,” according to Friday’s news release.

The grant will also go toward a new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) outreach program for Boise State astronomy undergraduates called AstroTAC, short for “Astronomers-in-Training Assisting the Community.” The group of undergraduates will conduct STEM outreach events at schools, scout meetings and other community meetings, according to the university.

The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, named by the International Dark Sky Association in 2017, includes Sun Valley, Ketchum, Stanley and a large swath of the Sawtooth National Forest. At 906,000 acres, its size makes it the third largest dark-sky reserve in the world, after Mont-Megantic in Quebec and Aoraki Mackenzie in New Zealand.

Like its counterparts, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve—the first of its kind in the U.S. and the 12th in the world—had to meet a long list of criteria, such as “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.”

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