The Globe at Night project is a great way to get involved in astronomy, make a real contribution to science, and raise awareness of the ever-growing problem of light pollution. This project, now in its sixth year, asks individuals to make simple measurements of their sky brightness during the two-week period of Feb. 21 through March 6th. Using their location and an easy-to-identify constellation, Orion, individuals are asked to report the dimmest star magnitude that can be seen. It's easy, can be done by anyone and provides useful data to gauge the encroachment of the advancing light pollution.
Now, for a rant.
When I mention light pollution in the company of those not interested in astronomy, the usual reaction is eye rolling and derisive laughter.
While light pollution may not have direct effects on human health, like say, air pollution, it does have real effects on us as well as other creatures with which we share the planet. Too much artificial light at night can lead to a decrease in melatonin production, which has been linked to higher risk for some types of cancers. This is also related to the disruption of circadian rhythms because the excess light does not allow us to sleep soundly. I have first-hand experience with this both from working the night shift, as well as having to sleep with a light bomb of a streetlamp on someone's property behind my house.
This doesn't even cover other effects like the direct creation of more air pollution caused by the production of electricity used to power the excessive lighting that we seem to need, as well as the pure waste of energy that these lights cause. Plus, even though people say they feel safer with more lighting, studies have shown that in areas where excessive night-time lighting was removed, that crime actually decreased.
When excessively bright lighting is used for security, such deep shadows are created that criminals have plenty of nice, dark places to hide out of our site. Plus, when stepping into this bright lighting, our eyes have to over compensate by restricting the pupil which makes the situation even worse.
All these issue aside, we cannot forget about losing the simple pleasure of walking outside on a moonless night and enjoying the sheer beauty of the night sky. It's hard to describe the experience without actually being there. It's amazing, and very rewarding, to hear comments from people at the TCAA's public outreach events. Even only 20 minutes from downtown Bloomington at Sugar Grove Nature Center, the number of stars visible increases dramatically and that's only from what we call a "yellow zone".
This refers to a color legend depicting the amount of light pollution in the area. The Dark Sky Finder site has a Google Maps based application that allows you to see the effects of excessive lighting on sky brightness.
This is a problem that is only going to get worse until people and companies take it upon themselves to do something about it. Very few communities have light pollution regulations, and it shows. It's up to us to address the problem and take action.
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Looks like you really enjoy doing this type o stuff!!!
Keep it up!!