Dark Skies

In these modern times, we have become rather profligate with our lighting. Yes a bit of light to read or work by is beneficial but do we really need to light up our whole planet like some over decorated Christmas tree! There seems to be a common held belief that high levels of external lighting will improve safety and reduce crime; yet there is very little evidence to support this. If light is genuinely required then it should be used sparingly & only be directed where needed, not left to pollute a large area. There are various good reasons to control light pollution, here are just a few:

  • Creating light costs energy, wasting energy is environmentally unfriendly
  • Broad light pollution can confuse & maybe harm wildlife
  • Lack of proper darkness disrupts the natural rhythm of human life and can lead to illness & an inability to sleep
  • A complete generation of city dwelling children are growing up without seeing the beauty of our night skies
  • Besides anything else, give your eyes a few minutes and its amazing how much you can see in the dark.

I’m lucky to live in one of the darkest areas of the UK with magnitude 5 – 6 skies, great for wildlife & great for astronomy. BUT even here there are a few street lights across in the village, not many but a handful. I can often avoid them during astrophotography sessions; they’re at least half a mile away behind my house & some trees. However I want to illustrate just how damaging even a few lights can be, here is a picture from the other night:

CRW_6463  Click image for larger view – Canon 300D 10mm f3.5 49secs

It was taken at almost 2am, long after the street lights are needed for anything. The night was basically clear at high levels with mountain cloud & valley mist drifting in and out. There was a partial moon so the high night sky wasn’t as dark as it can get but the village lights are dominating the scene with their orange glow. If that’s from a few lights imagine what an entire city of lights can cause.

What can you do about this? Well try not to use ‘flood’ type lighting unless you really need it. Use outdoor lighting that only throws light downwards to where its needed. Ask your local authority to minimise the use of wasteful street lighting. Join a campaign for dark skies. And more immediately …

You can carry out a survey on how dark your local night skies are. We were part of the UK specific survey earlier this year. Now Ed over at Flintstone Stargazing has kindly pointed out that there is an International Survey taking place and we can all take part in this project, so why not head over there and take a look, it closes on 15th October.


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