Hello Darkness, my old friend… Well, maybe. In most places. Because there’s so much light pollution and so little real darkness folks have forgotten what it’s like to see the night sky. Keeping that in mind, whole generations are growing up having never seen the Milky Way because of light pollution. Go ahead, take a survey of your friends, your kids, your mom, the man-on-the-street. Chances are they wouldn’t know their home galaxy from a chocolate bar. Light pollution, is a result of urban growth. Besides that, It is destroying our view of the Universe.
There is an ongoing movement to change all of this. Astronomers everywhere are affected, and short of shooting out the streetlamps, they are mobilized. Dave Crawford, an astronomer at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, gives the light pollution issue some perspective:
“I see this as an environmental issue, just like saving grizzly bears or preventing forest fires,” Crawford says. “Trying to observe the stars through the glow of urban haze is like taking a walk in the Grand Canyon and being surrounded by trash.”
The Solution to Light Pollution
The solution to light pollution, of course, is just to get people to be aware, and sensitive to it. That’s all. Nobody’s for light pollution after all… not even the lighting industry. Enter the International Dark-Sky Association. They are trying to get folks to think about lighting. The “IDA” stresses that astronomers aren’t against lighting – they’re for good, thoughtful lighting.
What’s the difference between low pressure and high pressure sodium lamps? Just how bad are mercury vapor lights? What’s a full cut-off fixture? How do folks in Tucson, Arizona like the fact that their city passed an ordinance that all outdoor advertising signs have to be off by 11 p.m.? Does it work? (You bet!)
There are a couple interesting websites that demonstrate light pollution in an amazing way. Because they show the earths brightly lit city’s and urban areas in a graphic manor, it is easier to understand that light is now a pollutant. One is called the “Blue Marble” and the other is called “Globe at night”.
A Quote From the International Dark Sky Association
The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light – known as light pollution – can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and our climate. Components of light pollution include:
- Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort
- Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas
- Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed
- Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources
Light pollution is a side effect of industrial civilization. Its sources include building exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues.
The fact is that much outdoor lighting used at night is inefficient, overly bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded, and, in many cases, completely unnecessary. This light, and the electricity used to create it, is being wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on to the actual objects and areas that people want illuminated.