Lets Reduce Light Pollution in 2009.
Light Pollution as defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is: "artificial skylight (as from city lights) that interferes especially with astronomical observations." Light Pollution interferes with astronomy activities from scientific measurements and discoveries to just trying to view the stars from your back yard. Professional and amateur astronomers want to let the public know about this problem and how easily it can be solved. It’s as easy as turning off your lights.
In an effort to get the attention of the general public, astronomers have tried to point out some of the other bad side-effects of light pollution, such as disrupting migration patterns of birds, and the habits of nocturnal animals, to breast cancer due to a decrease of melatonin usually produced in the body at night. Some astronomers take this approach because they believe that most people would be more concerned about those other side-effects than they would about being able to see fewer stars at night.
The heavens have long been a source of inspiration. From Galileo turning his telescope to the heavens and discovering the moons of Jupiter (1610) to sending men to our Moon (1969), man has looked up at the sky at night and thought of great things. Light Pollution was not a problem back then. When you looked up at the sky you could see thousands of stars. Today when you look up at the sky you might be lucky to see the Moon and one of the bright planets such as Venus if you live in the city. “The difference is striking: from a city you are likely to see around 80 stars in the sky, while in a mountain area you may see 4000 stars!” Astronomers today want to make sure that the future generations can be inspired by the thousands of stars visible to the naked eye just as they had been. Light Pollution is sure to get worse as time goes on and population increases; unless we do something about it, and the solutions are so simple.
Another way that astronomers have been beating around the bush about the light pollution problem is by pointing out the amount of energy that is being wasted by light that goes up into the air instead of onto the ground. It’s the light that goes up into the air causing the glow that you see over cities that astronomers are trying to stop. Stars are easier to see against a black background, but the glow from city lights causes the sky to glow in a dirty orange hue. Astronomers are forced to drive hundred of miles from cities to get great views of the night sky.
Pointing out the amount of energy that could be saved by reducing light pollution is one way that astronomers might get the attention of the general public. However with advances in technology such as LED’s and CFL’s people can put out the same amount of light pollution at a lower cost. However, cost could be reduced even more by putting into place the good practices of reducing light pollution. One such practice is the use of full cut-off light fixtures. Full cut-off light fixtures prevent light from going up into the air where it is wasted and adds to light pollution, and instead directs it back down onto the ground requiring lower wattage bulbs to light the same amount of area.
Then there is the matter of just too many lights. We have lit our cities to the point that there is practically no such thing as night anymore. When was the last time you needed a flashlight to go anywhere? Our streets are lit to the point where you almost do not need headlights on your car. Ariel views of our cities look like the Death Star. Just think about how much money could be saved if the cities turned off just half of their lights. That’s your tax dollars at work, polluting the sky and creating 24 hour daylight.
Light Pollution is gradually making it into the mainstream news. It was recently the cover story of National Geographic magazine. Organizations such as the International Dark Sky Association and Starry Night Lights provide lots of information on light pollution and how to reduce it. The International Astronomical Union and UNESCO have declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of a telescope to view the heavens. Lets make sure that we can still see the stars in another 400 years.
See my new article:
Hawaii passes Senate Bill 536 (2009) in defense of the Night Sky.
and ACT 161 (09)
Hawaii Legislature Passes Unique "Starlight Reserve" Law
In recognition of the Declaration of Defense of the Night Sky and Right to Starlight, the legislature passed an act defining starlight reserve and creating an action plan to maintain starlight reserves throughout the islands. 2009 Hawaii Laws Act 161 (2009)
ACT 161 (09)
SB536 SD1 HD1 CD1 Signed: June 29, 2009
RELATING TO STARLIGHT RESERVE
Requires the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to develop a statewide starlight reserve strategy to preserve the quality of the night sky and its associated cultural, scientific, astronomical, natural, and landscape-related values.
This is great news. Meanwhile we all need to recognize light pollution where we see it, and make the neccessary changes. http://www.flickr.com/photos/quarkcsj/sets/72157601946505987/