Light Pollution

Light pollution from improper outdoor lighting wastes billions of dollars and vast quantities of natural resources annually. Starry Night Lights is committed to fighting light pollution and restoring our heritage of star-filled skies. We offer the widest selection of night sky friendly outdoor lighting for your home or business.

Lights out! Jasper National Park to be named world’s largest dark-sky preserve

Posted on March 11, 2011 by Noel

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The Milky Way appears to explode from Athabasca Glacier along the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park, the largest dark sky preserve in Canada.
Photograph by: Yuichi Takasaka, edmontonjournal.com

EDMONTON — Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent will formally proclaim Alberta’s Jasper National Park the world’s largest dark-sky preserve on Friday.

“It’s very seldom when I say we should celebrate the fact that we’re in the dark, but I think in this case there is reason to pop a cork or two,” he said from Ottawa this week.

A dark-sky preserve — an area in which no artificial light is visible and measures are in place to educate and promote the reduction of light pollution — are officially recognized by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada to offer the public observing sites for night-sky viewing.

At 11,228 square kilometres, Jasper National Park will eclipse the combined total of the rest of the world’s dark-sky preserves, which add up to only one-fifth of the Jasper total.

Of the 11 preserves in Canada, eight are national parks or national historic sites.

Nearly all of south-central Alberta has some degree of light pollution. But most of Jasper National Park has excellent clear skies with no light pollution, Kent said.

And unlike some of the remote dark-sky preserves elsewhere in Canada or the world, it is also highly accessible to the public

Kent said the designation won’t force any changes on the town of Jasper, a popular tourist destination nestled in the Alberta Rockies with a population of about 5,000.

“The parks have always been quite strict in ensuring street lighting, commercial lighting and residential lighting is significantly less than one would find in most of our large urban centres,” he said. “We don’t allow the sorts of commercial signage, for example, or commercial lighting that you would find in a city like Edmonton, or Calgary or Vancouver or Toronto.”

Noting that people wouldn’t go to the town itself to do their observations, Kent said about 97 per cent of the park will be preserved dark space.

Kent confessed he gets a little lost in space when it comes to identifying constellations.

“Wherever I’ve been in the world in my former career as a journalist — and I’ve been in a lot of dark night situations in various parts of the world . . . I struggle when I get much beyond the big dipper and the little dipper and the North Star,” he said.

“But I love being in the company of folks with a deeper knowledge base who can point things out to me . . . And certainly the next time I pass through Jasper I’ll make sure there’s a skilled ranger who can set me straight on what’s where.”

Congratulations Jasper National Park on becoming internationally recognized as the world’s largest dark-sky preserve! More and more individuals from around the world are becoming increasingly aware of how bright our night skies are. News such as this shows a public interest in improving our skies and our lighting principles for future generations to come.

Let there be night!

Lamenting that we can count the stars

Posted on January 26, 2011 by Noel

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“Poet Ezra Pound must have been very impressed by the electric lights in Manhattan in 1910: “Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will.” In 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupery made a similar comparison about a street lamp and a lamp lighter in “The Little Prince”: “When he lights his lamp, it’s as if he’s bringing one more star to life, or one more flower.”

In the clear night sky of Seoul, you can see about 20 stars. It became rather awkward to use the expression “as many as stars” to describe countless quantity. Light pollution does not just interfere with visibility. Some observatories have shut down as the glow of artificial light make it impossible to study the stars. The Mount Wilson Observatory in California, where Edwin Hubble studied the expansion of universe, shut down its observation operation as the glare from nearby Los Angeles made the night sky six times brighter.

Light pollution has adverse effects on the ecosystem as well. The natural sleep cycle is disturbed, and the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer is increasing, studies show. Migrating birds mistake the artificial light as the moon and get disoriented. Cicadas are singing throughout the day as the night light confuses their sense of time. The artificial lights make creatures great and small go against the laws of nature.

The city of Seoul has recommended rules to prevent light pollution in order to reduce unnecessary lighting. Exterior lights on buildings would not be allowed until 11 p.m. and illumination from street lamps would not reach the windows of residential structures. However, the rules are not legally binding. Observing the stars in urban areas may be as difficult as reaching the stars in the sky.”

If only Ezra Pound and Antoine de Saint-Exupery could see how much light blankets our skies today.

According to a 2007 census report, The Seoul National Capital Area, by all accounts, is a megacity and Seoul proper itself, contains over 10 million residents. As with any megacity, economic, social, and environmental challenges exist. Though many would not consider this a problem, but rather a consequence or virtue of living in a city, light pollution continues to grow everyday around the world. Light pollution contributes to all three challenges listed above.

Economically, communities waste an exorbitant amount on adding new and performing regular maintenance on inefficient light fixtures. If cities continue to waste more money on supplying energy to these light fixtures, then you, the resident or taxpayer, ultimately feel the burden. Hence why many communities around the globe have recently begun to reevaluate their lighting purposes, as well as their lighting ordinances. Some have chose ‘shutting off redundant light fixtures’ as the solution, which is a fine solution, but there’s a better long-term solution. Shielded light fixtures direct the light downward, rather than upward. Directing the light downward concentrates the light, thus creating a more well illuminated area. Unshielded lights can accomplish this, though at the expense of a higher wattage bulb. Think of shielding as ‘more, for less.’ But it doesn’t stop there. To fully maximize the potential of a shielded light fixture, one can couple it with an energy efficient light bulb and a motion sensor. Overall, this ‘lighting trinity’ would save communities the most money due to requiring less energy, fewer light fixtures and light when you need it.

Socially, megacities possess large populations. I think it’s fair to say that some, if not most megacities have a problem regarding crime. The common belief, regarding light and crime, has been to use more light to deter crime. Here’s the truth: more light, actually encourages more criminal activity. Here’s why: excessive light can cause glare. Glare is light that can obscure our vision while driving or walking. Criminals can actually use glare to their advantage, to thwart the authorities. If communities wish to increase safety and reduce crime, I would suggest utilizing motion sensors. Consider the following: if you walked into a dark area where you shouldn’t be and all of a sudden, a bright light illuminated your position, how would you react? The fear of being ‘caught’ in the dark, is enough for potential or real criminals to abandon their efforts. Certainly, crime will continue to occur, but utilizing motion sensors as a deterrent would yield better results than the ‘accepted’ light ordinance most communities utilize.

Environmentally, numerous studies have shown how our bodies, as well as pratically all life on Earth, are adversely affected by light pollution. Nearly all life on Earth functions on a day-night cycle aka circadian rhythm. When something upsets this natural balance, our brains have difficultly coping with the outcome. For example, insomnia, depression and cancer have been linked to light pollution. Certainly, other factors such as stress can affect insomnia, depression and cancer, but the fact remains: light pollution causes health problems. In fact, many animals migratory, feeding and reproducing patterns have been negatively affected. For example, sea turtles populations are on the brink of extinction.

Globally, light pollution is increasingly becoming more and more widespread. What needs to change is how we fundamentally perceive lighting. If all lights utilized proper shielding, then much, if not all of the world’s light pollution would be eradicated. I can not stress the importance of proper shielding enough. Without it, all attempts to curb light pollution will be in vain.

Let there be night!

BOS approves revised streetlight policy

Posted on December 8, 2010 by Noel

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“The Board of Supervisors last week approved a revised streetlight policy intended to improve energy efficiency, cut light pollution and help decrease projected increases in operating costs. Since its introduction on July 28, the policy revision has been tweaked in response to supervisor concerns. At the Dec. 1 meeting, William Dupler, interim deputy county administrator for community development, said the staff had been working diligently on the revision and to address supervisors concerns. Three issues prompted the policy’s revision, he said in July: Renewed interest in energy conservation and light pollution, the fact that the policy was last revised in 1988 and increasing costs.

“In our current environment, controlling costs is really going to be imperative for the continuing viability of our community,” he said. “If we can direct our illumination on the ground, it’s a much more efficient use of energy, much more efficient use of our resources.” Currently, the county spends about $644,700 a year operating and maintaining streetlights, a staff report on the revision says. At the current pace, those costs are expected to double as early as 2016, and increase by more than $1 million by 2020, the report says.

According to a summary of the revised policy, a streetlight will be required at the entrance to any new subdivision or subdivision section where the entrance forms an intersection. Developers will pay for the installation, and pay a fee equivalent to the five-year cost to the county for the type of light installed. Additional lighting will be the responsibility of the developer or homeowners associations and will not be added to the county’s streetlight program.

In new commercial and industrial developments, a streetlight will be required at road entrances and exits. Developers will pay for the installation, and pay a fee equivalent to the five-year cost to the county for the type of light installed. Additional lighting will be the responsibility of the developer or operator and will not be added to the county’s streetlight program. In existing residential areas or developments, streetlights should be located at intersections. A requested streetlight that costs less than $300 can be approved by staff. After making a motion to adopt the policy revisions, Matoaca Supervisor Marleen Durfee thanked Dupler “for being patient with the board” throughout the process. Dale Supervisor Jim Holland said he appreciated the hard work that went into the revision.”

It’s astounding how a small change in policy can have such a large impact on communities. When you direct street lights and home property lights downward, it saves not only you energy, but the community as well. In addition, having less street light fixtures, though shielded, can offer the same amount of illumination than additional, more traditional light fixtures would have provided. Rightfully so, if a homeowner wishes to install additional light fixtures on their property, they’re certainly entitled to it, though they should be properly shielded – especially if the community wishes to maintain congruency. That’s the simple truth of the matter: shielded light fixtures eliminate light pollution 100%. As more and more communities across the globe continue to reevaluate their energy budgets, shielding preexisting or newly built light fixtures is an extremely cost effective solution. Once a light is shielded, the only thing requiring additional maintenance would be replacing the bulb itself. We can do this!

Let there be night!

Five pc increase in ”light pollution” in Delhi

Posted on November 29, 2010 by Noel

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“Surabhi Gupta New Delhi, Nov 28 (PTI) There has been about five per cent increase in the phenomenon of ”light pollution” in Delhi this year as compared to last year, according to a new survey. Adverse effects of excessive artificial light including sky glow, light clutter, decreased visibility at night and energy waste are described as light pollution. A campaign — the Great Indian Star Count (GSIC) — was launched by Space Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE), an NGO, from October 29 to November 12 to make people aware of value of pristine dark skies.

School Children, amateur astronomers and the public took part in it. Initial analysis of the observations made from GSIC shows that light pollution levels have been on the increase in almost all the big cities, SPACE President C B Devgun told PTI. Approximately five per cent increase in the light levels has been recorded in Delhi, he said. More than 1,000 records of observations from 30 locations across the country were taken into account while compiling the data, he said. Due to light pollution, sky-gazers in Delhi miss nearly 97 per cent of stars which are visible to the naked eye as compared to their counterparts living in remote areas close to the national capital. Javer and Sakras, around 120 kms from Delhi, had much darker skies as compared to the national capital. Observers there were able to count many more stars (about 7 to 15) in the given constellation Cygnus than observers in cities like Delhi who could manage only 0 to 4, showing the effect light pollution has on celestial observation, he said.

GISC is a scientific survey to quantify light pollution by counting number of stars that can be seen in the sky. It is a campaign for better use of lighting in day-to-day lives, efficient use of electricity and saving of energy, he said. SPACE is conducting the programme in India on behalf of Great Worldwide Star Count this year. GISC has been conducted for several years as part of ”Project Dark Skies” to increase awareness of how light pollution affects visibility, he said. Great Worldwide Star Count recommends a method of counting stars where an observer looks at known constellations like Cygnus, the swan, and tries to spot how many stars from this constellation can actually be seen in their sky.

The light pollution obscures the stars in the night sky for city dwellers, interferes with astronomical observatories, and, like any other form of pollution, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects. Light pollution sources include building exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues. It is most severe in highly industrialised, densely populated areas of India.”

This is a reality nearly all of us on Earth are experiencing: light pollution is on the rise. A five percent increase may seem insignificant to most but consider the roughly 12 million people residing in Delhi. In addition, consider residents residing nearby, many of whom experience light trespass from Delhi. Fortunately, interest groups such as the Great Indian Star Count GISC and Space Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators (SPACE) exist as entities to collect data as well as inform the public of its findings. By doing so, we, the public can educate ourselves about light pollution and adaptable solutions to solve this growing crisis. We can do it!

Let there be night!

Town Creek to hold stargazing program

Posted on November 27, 2010 by Noel

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“MOUNT GILEAD — Visitors can enjoy stargazing at one of the last dark-sky locations in the Piedmont region at Astronomy Night at Town Creek Indian Mount in Mount Gilead on Dec. 4, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The highlight of the night will be the Orion Nebula, found in the constellation Orion.

It will be peak viewing time as the constellation dominates the winter sky, since cold nights usually mean less turbulence in the atmosphere and better viewing conditions. Bring your telescopes or binoculars, and dress appropriately. The site telescope will be available also.

Reservations are required for this event. For information and reservations call (910) 439-6802.

Town Creek Indian Mound is located at 509 Town Creek Mound Road, Mount Gilead. It is within the Division of State Historic Sites of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social , cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available at www.ncculture.com.”

Star parties are an integral part of viewing the night sky for experienced and inexperienced star gazers alike. Not only do star parties encourage community, but they’re a wonderful opportunity to interact with other passionate individuals, relax with your family, and enjoy the terrestrial and extraterrestrial sights. If you haven’t been to one, I’d highly recommend you try to go to at least one. Whether in an open field, at a science observatory or a backyard, knowledgeable individuals can offer insights regarding the infinite heavens above and help make sense as to what you are viewing. If you’d want to experience the night sky with a professional, then I’d suggest to attend your local university astronomy department. There, you can expect to hear and receive guidance from academic professionals. In addition, you’ll most likely have the opportunity to utilize University astronomy equipment, otherwise difficult or impossible for the public to use. But then again, that is the great thing about stargazing. Anyone around the world can simply look up and watch. Although, there is a more sinister force out there, causing the night sky to vanish, called light pollution. Light pollution, simply put, is light escaping into the sky. Without proper shielding, light continues to freely pollute our skies worldwide. There is some good news though: light pollution is 100% reversible. We have the technology to eliminate light pollution, once and for all, but we continue to use outdated and ineffective lighting principles. Here at Starry Night Lights, we are committed to eradicating light pollution and educating the public around the world about its effects.

Let there be night!

Leonid meteor shower to peak tonight

Posted on November 17, 2010 by Noel

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“The Leonid meteor shower — a yearly event that in the past has produced some spectacular displays — will peak Wednesday night, with about 15 meteors per hour expected.

To get a good look, Bay Area skywatchers will have to contend with an unhelpful moon, encroaching clouds and the usual light pollution.

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through the debris produced by a comet — in this case, the comet Tempel-Tuttle. The Leonids appear to radiate from their namesake constellation, Leo, toward the north.

Occasionally Leonids reach the status of meteor storm, say the experts at NASA, with thousands of meteors per hour. A burst of Leonid activity produced spectacular displays from 1998 to 2002, but these events generally recur in cycles of about 33 years.

Wednesday night, the waxing gibbous moon, three days away from full, will interfere with viewing, and it won’t set until around 4 a.m. And at that point, predicted increasing cloudiness could hamper predawn skywatching.

(Weather note: The partly cloudy Thursday is a precursor to a wet weekend, with rain likely Friday night through Saturday nights, the National Weather Service says. The chance of precipitation will diminish Sunday and Monday, but cooler temperatures those nights — lows will dip into the 30s at higher elevations — mean the local mountaintops could get the season’s first dusting of snow.)

Even if the Leonids are a disappointment, meteor satisfaction might be just a few weeks away: The Geminids, which generally are among the best showers of the year, will peak on the night of Dec. 13, with about 50 meteors per hour predicted by the meteor-watching guide of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Time of optimal viewing is 2 a.m.”

This should be an exciting event for Bay Area sky gazers. The Leonid meteor showers are an annual, natural phenomenon that has been occuring for many, many years. Even if you can not witness this particular meteor shower, there are other meteor showers which occur throughout the year. The significance of viewing this event is simple: you are an advocate for darker skies. Sure, there is natural phenomenon which can obscure our view of the stars, but consider the human phenomenon, light pollution. Light pollution is 100% reversible. We have the tools to reverse this process, yet fumble to build a more sustainable dark sky. Inform your local and national representatives about the virtues of a darker sky: reduced energy consumption, improved circadian rhythm cycles, reduced risk of breast cancer and increased wildlife protection.

Let there be night!

Green Good Design Award for DesignworksUSA and Landscape Forms

Posted on November 14, 2010 by Noel

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“BMW Group DesignworksUSA has been awarded a 2010 “Green Good Design Award” for two streetlights from a collection of site furnishings designed on behalf of American based client Landscape Forms. The award is initiated by the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum and given out in 2010 for the second time. It complements the “Good Design Award”, the oldest and most important awards program worldwide.

Hi-Glo, a 12-foot pedestrian light and Lo-Glo, a 3-foot pathway light, feature LED cartridge technology that delivers energy efficiency, high performance, longevity and economy. Innovations in light color and reduced light pollution support the circadian cycle and human health. Both styles meet lighting requirements and help define identity in settings such as business districts, campuses and parks, or can be used as stand alone lighting.

“In past days, eco friendly products used to present a green look and feel. Nowadays designers are facing the challenge to define new aesthetic experiences for products that incorporate new values of sustainability,” said Laurenz Schaffer, President of DesignworksUSA. “Sustainable design solutions integrate social and user needs, intelligent technologies, new materials and processes. With the design of Hi- Glo and Lo-Glo we have made the attempt to integrate these aspects as part of a comprehensive line of site furniture with a light and animated aesthetics that fits globally with agile and modern urban environment. We are proud that our design convinced the Good Design jury, and that we were awarded with a “Green Good Design Award‟ right in its second year of existence.”"

Perhaps, for some people, this design is too ‘modern’ or futuristic, but I think the heart of the idea is what’s important: a new aesthetic for a new generation of lights. It’s 2010 and we’re experiencing the heart of the digital age. Changing the aesthetic status quo to reflect our modern taste celebrates innovation and change. Good on DesignworksUSA for the win and may your design inspire others’ imaginations around the world.

Let there be night!

Astronomers: Light pollution obscuring views

Posted on November 7, 2010 by Noel


Courtesy http://www.rasc.ca/

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“MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS1130) – You’ve heard of noise pollution and visual pollution, but what about light pollution? Local astronomers say it’s a big problem. Amateur Astronomer Mark Eburne says 30-40 per cent of the light pollution obscuring our view comes from streetlights. “Inefficiencies and energy waste that comes with having streetlights pointing up to the sky and not down where it’s needed.” Mark Eburne with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada says that’s mainly due to inefficient street lights pointing light up at the sky and the rules around them.

He is working with the group to try and make streetlights more efficient. “There’s no set policy to control light pollution at a municipal level. We want to have the proper legislation that’s in there to control the types of lights that can go in.” He says the Golden Ears Bridge is a good example of proper lighting that doesn’t point up. He points to Maple Ridge as a community that is looking at changing bylaws to reduce light pollution. The City of Vancouver is looking at eventually replacing burnt out streetlights with LEDs. He says with less light pollution in the city we should be able to see stars at a magnitude six, which the furthest the naked eye can see.”

Yes, light pollution is escalating into a worldwide problem. Yes, light pollution is 100% reversible. We have the technology to produce new light fixtures and recycle old light fixtures. Yet we continue to lollygag about the issue. Here are the facts: light pollution affects our and other organisms’ circadian rhythm systems, wastes inordinate amounts of energy and obscures the heavens above at night. We, at Starry Night Lights, are committed to fighting the good fight against the light pollution scourge.

Let there be night!

For city viewers, light pollution masks Milky Way’s true glory

Posted on November 6, 2010 by Noel

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“The Milky Way’s visibility, or lack of it, is the easiest measure of your sky’s light pollution — the glow from all the poorly designed and improperly aimed outdoor light fixtures for dozens of miles around. If they illuminated only the ground as their installers intended, rather than wasting some of their light uselessly sideways and upward, we could not only save many megawatts of electricity, but the world’s view of the starry universe would be vastly improved.

The galaxy’s numbers are boggling — 200 to 400 billion suns in a grand spiral disk 80,000 light-years wide — so let’s put it in some earthly perspective. We’re located a little more than halfway from the center of the galaxy to one edge. On a really dark, moonless night you can see only about 3,000 of those stars with the naked eye. Capella is relatively nearby at a distance of 42 light-years. Aldebaran is 65 light-years away, the Pleiades 400. Most of the faintest stars that you can see are a few hundred to a couple thousand light-years out.”

There’s a whole universe outside, waiting for us to explore it! Stars, galaxies, planets, comets, asteroids, moons, etc. beckoning our eyes to gaze upon them and our spirit to explore them.

Let there be night!

Aurora Borealis lights up Iceland

Posted on November 3, 2010 by Noel


Photographer Kristjan Unnar Kristjansson has spent the last nine years capturing the Aurora Borealis. Picture: Kiddi Kristjans/Barcroft Pacific

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“The Aurora Borealis light display, particularly visible in polar regions, is usually observed at night where it illuminates the northern horizon as a greenish or red glow.Kristján Unnar Kristjansson went to extraordinary lengths over the last nine years to capture the amazing light show in all its glory. The 31-year-old says he often drives to remote, light-pollution free locations to get the best view. This often means he drives around 10,000-15,000 kilometres for the perfect shot – but it’s worth it.”No words can properly describe the experience,” Mr Kristjansson told the UK’s Telegraph.

“Even though I’ve seen them now and again throughout my life, I’m still awe-inspired and flabbergasted every time they show up.” Mr Kristjansson said that taking a good Aurora Borealis snap is difficult. “It is really hard capturing them, as they require bright lenses, highly photosensitive cameras, warm clothes and a whole lot of luck,” he said. The light displays are best observed at night, away from light sources. However, he says the effort is well worth it as no other natural phenomenon compares to experiencing the northern light first-hand.

“I recommend that everybody should try to visit Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Alaska or any other northern-latitude country for this purpose alone,” he said. The Aurora Borealis is named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek word for the north wind, Boreas.”

Truly, a remarkable photo. Once you’ve seen an Aurora borealis, it will forever leave a mark upon you. Regrettably, many inhabitants in the Northern Hemisphere are missing out on this marvelous spectacle due to increased levels of light pollution. If current lighting trends continue, numerous scientific studies predict a much brighter future for us all. Light pollution is 100% reversible. Period. We have the technology and the materials to eliminate light pollution, once and for all, but costs, poor lighting principles and implementation set us back. I’m aware this may sound strange, but I look forward towards a more darker future.

Let there be night!

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