International Dark Sky Week April 5 to 11

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 4, 2013 – 5:58 pm -

Because of light pollution, the artificial brightening of the night sky, less than a third of Earth’s population lives under natural, starry skies.

International Dark Sky Week (April 5-11) draws worldwide attention to the problems associated with light pollution and highlights the simple solutions to mitigate it. Reducing light pollution is a win-win situation. Directing light downward to only where it is needed, in just the amount needed, saves money, energy, and reduces greenhouse gases — all while protecting the environment, wildlife, and improving human health.

Some of the many ways to participate in International Dark Sky Week include:

* Check around home. Shield outdoor lighting, or at least angle it downward, to minimize “light trespass” beyond your property lines. Use light only when needed. Motion detectors and timers can help. Use only the amount of illumination you need; try reducing lamp wattage.

* Attend or throw a star party! Many astronomy clubs and International Dark Sky Places are celebrating the week by holding public events under the stars.

* Talk to neighbors. Explain that poorly shielded fixtures waste energy, produce glare and reduce visibility. Give them an IDA brochure from the IDA website.

* Become a Citizen Scientist with GLOBE at Night or the Dark Sky Rangers and document light pollution in your neighborhood and share the results. Doing so contributes to a global database of light pollution measurements.

* Photograph the sky and enter the 2013 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest.

* Download, Watch, and Share “Losing the Dark,” a public service announcement about light pollution.

* Explore Online. Join the staff of the International Dark-Sky Association and others on social media to learn about the impact of light pollution.

Details on these ideas and more are available on the International Dark-Sky Association’s International Dark Sky Week webpage. Find it here: http://www.darksky.org/idsw

- adapted from media release put out by the International Dark-Sky Association


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Conserving Africa’s Dark Skies

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 30, 2012 – 9:26 am -

This past week saw a big step towards preserving the dark night skies in one of the last unspoilt regions on Earth.  Skywatchers wanting to experience some of the darkest skies anywhere in the world have a new dream destination in Africa.

This week the Arizona-based International Dark Sky Association (IDA), a  night sky preservation advocacy group announced that one of southern Africa’s largest privately own reserves, NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia is not only the world’s newest International Dark Sky Preserve but the continents first.

Read the rest of my story on this exciting new night sky conservation effort at National Geographic News


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Count Stars and Help Save our Night Skies

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 11, 2012 – 4:36 pm -

For a second time this year from April 11th to 20th skywatchers around the world get a chance to determine how bad light pollution is in their backyard by counting visible stars. Light pollution has without a doubt turned night into day and has robbed an entire generation out of a sky filled with stars.  It is a global threat that not only ruins our views of the cosmos, but also wastes money and natural resources.

Globe at Night campaign hopes to help change the course by getting you involved the battle to save the night sky. By utilizing the power of the internet coupled with handheld devices like tablets and smartphones – it now becomes and fun and easy project for entire families to participate and become aware of the natural heritage we are all being robbed of.

For more details on how you can participate then read my blog post I wrote for the last campaign in January at National Geographic News.


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Help Track Light Pollution

Written by The Night Sky Guy on January 20, 2012 – 9:26 pm -

A recent university survey estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population cannot see the hazy band of stars in the overhead night sky. Light pollution has without a doubt turned night into day and has robbed an entire generation out of a sky filled with stars.  It is a global threat that not only ruins our views of the cosmos, but also wastes money and natural resources.

Globe at Night campaign hopes to help change the course by getting you involved the battle to save the night sky. By utilizing the power of the internet coupled with handheld devices like tablets and smartphones – it now becomes and fun and easy project for entire families to participate and become aware of the natural heritage we are all being robbed of.

For more details on how you can participate then read my blog post at National Geographic News.


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Stargazing@Earth Hour

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 25, 2011 – 6:18 pm -

This Saturday night (Mar.26) as neighbourhoods and city blocks turnoff their lights for Earth Hour why not take advantage of the darkness and look skyward at the stars. As long as you have clear skies, you should experience a lot less light pollution and so see  a fair bit more stars in the sky than usual.

As a quick test for your sky conditions and the effects of light pollution,  take a look at the Little Dipper and see how many of its stars you can see.  To find Ursa Minor face the northeast horizon and look about halfway up the sky (mid-northern latitude locations).

mar26-2011

Find the Little Dipper and use its stars to see how light polluted your night sky is. Click image to enlarge.

You should be able to see the Big Dipper lying on its side with the handle pointing down towards the horizon.  Take the 2 end stars in the bowl and draw an imaginary line left until you hit the next brightest star – which is the North Star or Polaris.  It marks the tail end of the Little Dipper. Now try and trace out the remainder of the Little Dipper.

Can you  see all the stars that make up the handle and bowl? Backyard astronomers use these stars to get a rough guage of how light polluted their local skies are.  While the two end stars of the little bowl are magnitude 2 and 3 - making them just visible from suburban skies – the remaining two stars in the bowl and handle (except Polaris which is super bright at mag 2)  are all 4th magnitude – which means they are usually not easily visible under lots of light pollution in  urban and suburban sites.   Look for the stars before all light are turned off for Earth Hour and then during Earth Hour. Do you see any difference?

Earth Hour will also be a great time to see the wonders of the Universe.  One of the great celestial sights not to be missed is the granddaddy of all constellations – Orion – the Great hunter. Face the southwest sky and look for 3 bright stars in a row – that is Orion’s belt. Now just underneath it is his sword – made of three much fainter stars – usually more challenging to see under urban lighting. Can you see 3 faint stars lined up vertically?  Look a the middle star and you may notice that its  fuzzy. That’s because you are looking at a giant gas cloud that is a nursery for dozens of newborn stars.  Called the Great Orion Nebula – its is located more than 1300 light years from Earth.   You should be able to see it with the naked eye as a ‘fuzzy looking star’ – especially during Earth Hour.

Around Canada and the US there will be local astronomy clubs setting up telescopes in municipal parks during Earth Hour to take advantage of the darkness.  I will be setting up my telescope with my astronomy buddies from RASC for free public viewings at the Westmount Park Earth Hour celebrations in Montreal.  What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Check out the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s website and for the USA go online to the Night Sky Network and try the Astronomical League website too.

Let’s enjoy the dark skies – even if they are only for an hour!

Wishing you all clear skies!

Don’t  forget you can always get late-breaking, instant stargazing news anytime by joining my fanpage on Facebook, or get  email alerts sent directly to your inbox


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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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Canada a Stargazer’s Haven

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 16, 2009 – 1:52 pm -

Courtesy of Int'l Dark Sky Assoc.

The astronomical community has been fighting the fog of light pollution for decades – and in most places sadly losing the battle. Professional observatories around the world, even in seemingly remote regions, are being threatened by continuous brightening of the night sky. Light pollution is a global threat that not only ruins our views of the cosmos, but also wastes money and natural resources.

Under the partnership of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and Parks Canada,  Canucks are leading the world in helping conserve astronomically dark skies with the creation of a series of protected stargazing sanctuaries what are being called Dark Sky Preserves (DSP). in fact this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the first DSP , The Torrance Barrens Park in Ontario (about 2.5 hours drive north of Toronto) being inaugurated.  in honour of the anniversary, Saturday night there will be public stargazing onsite with telescopes – pending clear skies.

Big news for stargazers this month, the Grasslands National Park, in southern Saskatchewan has been designated as Canada’s eleventh Dark Sky Preserve! Located about 100 km south of Swift Current near the border with Montana it will be the largest dark sky conservation area in the world with 527 square kilometers protected from light pollution.

A press release put out on the RASC website says, “By protecting the Grasslands National Park from excessive artificial light, Parks Canada and the RASC are preserving the natural environment into the future so that visitors can enjoy the vitality of the nighttime wildlife and the awesome spectacle of a remarkably dark star-filled sky.”

For more information on the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and other DSPs, see:
 http://www.rasc.ca/lpa/darksky.shtml

For general background info on what light pollution is and what you can do to help curb its growth visit the International Dark Sky Association’s website.


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Radio Show: Battle for the Night Sky

Written by The Night Sky Guy on August 19, 2009 – 11:27 am -

Did you know that two-thirds of the world’s  population can’t see the Milky Way from where they live?Coming up on my next CBC Radio One column today (Wednesday) we chat about the bane of all astronomers – light pollution and the fading beauty of the Milky Way.  Find out how both amateur and  pro stargazers are waging a battle to save the starry skies and get some tips on what you can do too. 

Tune in to the drive-home show between 3 pm and 6 pm on your city’s local CBC Radio One station.

For more info on light pollution check out these links..

Latest Canadian efforts by RASC Light Pollution Abatement program
Research study that assesses how bad light pollution is around the world.
International Dark Sky Association offers great info, internatinoal efforts, and tips.
NASA story on the fading Milky Way, and  beginner’s guide entitled A Milky Way Primer
check out an article I wrote about Quebec creating a new Dark Sky Preserve

 


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