Lighting Control Is A Boon For Stargazers

Outdoor lighting control helps unveil the universe at Grand Canyon visitor center.

The National Park Service offers stargazing sessions for Grand Canyon South Rim visitors.

At approximately 7,000 ft. elevation, there’s something magical about the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and its visitor center that invokes a sense of majesty, solitude, and serenity. Visitors cannot help but wonder at the grandeur of the amazing views, and ponder our place within the world—indeed, within the universe.

The Grand Canyon Visitor Center complex provides park and regional information, informative exhibits exploring the park’s history, bicycle rentals, a bookstore, and much more. The National Park Service also offers a unique experience for South Rim visitors—stargazing sessions. The area offers amazing views year round, and during the late spring and summer months when the evenings are clear and warm, the night sky is a spectacular sight.

Several years ago, Grand Canyon Visitor Center rangers began hosting stargazing sessions where visitors gather in the parking lot with binoculars, cameras, and telescopes to enjoy the celestial views. As interest and participation in the sessions grew, it was decided to upgrade the park’s lighting-control system to be able to turn off (or dim) pole lighting in the parking lots and dim walking-path bollard lighting systems to better accommodate the stargazing sessions. At the same time, having the flexibility to keep some of the bollard lights near stairs at 100% light levels, would help with safe access in a very dark environment.

The lighting-control design helped meet the luminance criteria and energy requirements to establish the visitors’ center as an International Dark-Sky Association Compliant lighting installation.

Rocky lighting

Vantage Controls, Pleasant Grove, UT, manufacturer representative firm MH Lighting, Denver, worked with David Roederer of Clanton & Associates, Boulder, CO, to design an outdoor lighting-and-control system for the National Park Service. Clanton & Associates has been a leader in sustainable lighting design since they were established in 1981. MH Lighting and Vantage Controls, a brand of Legrand North America, performed the system installation and programming.

“The National Park Service had very aggressive luminance level, color temperature, and energy requirements for this project,” said Roederer. “The control system had to have complete flexibility in order to achieve these goals, which it does. The control design helped us meet the luminance criteria and energy requirements establishing this facility as an International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), Tucson, AZ, compliant lighting installation.

Because this was a new construction project with all new lighting and controls—and because the site is basically all rock—the designers wanted to minimize the need to run control wiring and conduit to every fixture. Maintaining zone flexibility was also a priority. A single-wire daisy chain feeds through the fixtures, greatly minimizing the wiring. Inside each LED fixture is a DALI driver that allows the fixture to communicate with the central controller.

Inside each LED fixture is a DALI (digital addressable lighting interface) driver that allows the fixture to communicate with the central controller.

Additionally, the system needed to be very easy for rangers and visitor center officials to use, with much of the system relying on prescheduled programming.

“What we were able to do was design a Vantage lighting-control system based on a digital addressable lighting interface known as DALI,” said Don McCormack, control sales engineer, MH Lighting. “This DALI interface gives us the ability to send signals to each individual fixture through a single, low-voltage wire.”

Forrest Kelsey, technical support director for Vantage Controls, spearheaded the installation and system programming. He explained there are currently 45 DALI-connected fixtures on the project, with three relay-controlled information panels. The system is all LED lighting with two Equinox touchscreen control pads that serve as the user interface. One pad is located in the back room of the visitor center so personnel can easily access it, and the other in the electrical room where the equipment is installed.

The system currently covers three of the visitor center parking lots. A future phase will add to existing coverage and expand to the remaining parking lots. This is currently a control-by-zone application.

“While there is the ability to adjust each fixture individually, the visitor center is relying on automated operation through timed events,” said Kelsey. “With preset lighting levels being reduced, the fixtures are meeting the need to light pathways without interfering with any stargazing activities.”


Learn more about the products used:

— panel

— controller

— relay module

— DMX/DALI Gateway

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