Saving the Night Sky

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 22, 2010 – 4:27 pm -

Stray light cast into the sky by poorly designed security and street lights, porch lamps, and neon signs fill the sky with so much light that they obscure the rest of the universe beyond, including the beautiful Milky Way, and hides all but the brightest meteors. Only a handful of bright stars and planets shine through it.

The McDonald Observatory in Texas has produced a three-minute video detailing easy steps that we can all take to preserve the night sky.

“McDonald Observatory is fortunate to have the darkest night skies of any professional observatory in the continental United States,” said Dr. Tom Barnes, McDonald Observatory Superintendent. “The sky out here makes this a great place for big telescopes and research. For years, we’ve put on public programs and worked with schools to bring the wonders of the universe to as wide an audience as possible. Now we want to share the message that dark skies are what makes our work possible, and preserving dark skies is worthwhile for everyone.”

Light pollution isn’t only a problem for astronomers and skywatchers. The International Dark-Sky Association estimates Americans lose $10 billion each year paying for light that is wasted — as it’s shone into the sky, instead of down on the ground where it’s needed. This wasted light isn’t making people safer in parking lots and outside their homes. And this unusable light is powered by wasted electricity, unnecessarily adding thousands of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually.

“This is not only a problem for astronomers, but for everyone — for wildlife and for people who live in cities where the dark skies are drowned out by wasted light,” Paul Premack said. “You can make a difference by being wise about the kinds of lighting you use to light the outside of your homes, and by supporting city and county lighting ordinances.”

– adapted from a news announcement from  McDonald observatory of University of Texas, Austin.

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