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.

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!

Street lights to be switched off at night

Posted on September 23, 2010 by Noel

“The Conservative-controlled council has controversially decided to turn off or dim street-lights to save cash and energy.

But opposition members are worried that it could lead to road accidents as well as a rise in crime.

The council’s Cabinet says the project will save more than £1 million a year and cut carbon emissions and light pollution.

The proposal will involve turning some street lights off between midnight and 5.30 am, dimming some between 10 pm and 7 am and switching others off entirely.”

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Cutting costs, due to the global economic slowdown, has been dominating city councils, state governments and federal governments around the globe these past five years. Perhaps, all of us know we use too much light to light our homes, streets and cities. Perhaps, it’s ‘easily cut’, given it’s position in the budget ‘totem pole’ of government. Regardless, light pollution is a 100% reversible problem. As for the context of the article, increased lighting does not increase safety. In good form, a comment proclaimed how crime will spike dramatically and how the city should erect more light fixtures. Utter nonsense. Shielded lighting paired in conjunction with motion sensors would not only save money, but also help secure properties, streets and cities better than over-illuminated solutions. This alternative will not completely deter crime entirely, but given some of the research conducted about this topic, less illumination is either neutral or better than excessive lighting. In this case, Shielded lighting paired in conjunction with motion sensors is a win-win situation.

Let there be night!

Motion Sensing 101

Posted on September 12, 2010 by Noel

Motion Sensing

Motion sensors are a great way to further increase energy savings and overall safety around your home. As for further increasing your energy savings, think of it this way: the light is on, when it’s needed most. In this particular case, it’s movement. Whether it’s for movement outside or movement inside an apartment building, YOU save money. As for increasing overall safety, let’s examine the currently held belief: more lighting deters criminals. FALSE. In fact, here is why this idea is wrong. For starters, studies have conclusively reported that normal lighting conditions vs. excessive lighting conditions showed no positive change. In fact, excessive lighting conditions fostered more crime. Well, why is that? Well, picture yourself in an excessively bright area. Sure, you’re illuminated, but you’re illuminated too much. By being illuminated too much, it actually makes it rather difficult to see things or people due to glare from the lights. Criminals actually take advantage of that consequence and by doing so, continue to commit crimes in excessively lit areas more often than normal areas. Motion Sensing would solve this by instilling fear. How? Imagine you are in a dark area and all of a sudden, a very bright light turns on as you approached a certain point. In that situation, I’d wager more criminals would flee in panic rather than stay. Even if they do stay, they’ll be extremely nervous. I’m not saying that motion sensors will eliminate crime all together, but it would help reduce criminal activity better than using the old ‘excessive lighting’ method.

So, there you have it. Installing motion sensors to your lights, whether outdoor or indoor, can increase your energy savings even more as well as help reduce criminal activity more than the past, anachronistic method.

More night: Fighting light pollution

Posted on April 19, 2010 by Noel

Newburyport at night from above.
Wicked Local Photo by Nicole Goodhue
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“Astronomers were among the first to record the negative impacts of wasted lighting on scientific research, but for society as a whole, the adverse economic and environmental impacts of wasted energy are apparent in everything from the electric bill to the dwindling natural environment.”

Light pollution hasn’t just made the night’s sky a little brighter; for most of us, it’s dramatically brighter,”
said Kelly Beatty, a senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope magazine and board of directors member for the International Dark-Sky Association.

Dr. Mario Motta, long time Newburyport, Massachusetts resident, is concerned about his community. Whilst he dreamed of becoming an astrophysicist in University, Dr. Mario Motta is now a renowned cardiologist and president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Even though Astronomy wasn’t his major field of study, Dr. Motta still finds time to pursue it as a hobby. Yet Dr. Motta’s hobby has now turned into a passion. Presently, he gives lectures on how to curb light pollution and why Newburyport should. Here are some of the points Dr. Motta introduces in his lectures:

Public Safety

“Our pupils aren’t designed to accommodate direct bright light at night. [Without shielded lights] we’re blinding everyone.”

“If your neighbor’s spotlight is shining in your bedroom, it’s going to be a lot harder to sleep; lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, stress, depression and onset of diabetes.” – Dr. Motta

Shielded lighting is absolutely essential to proper lighting principles. It directs the light where it’s needed most: downward. A negative consequence of unshielded lighting is what Dr. Motta calls ‘disability glare.’ This ‘disability glare’ can temporarily “cast everything except the light source into virtual invisibility, causing drivers to see only white, basically blinding them.” Drivers over the age of 50 are at most risk.

Sleep disorders, another negative consequence of light pollution, can also lead to other serious illnesses such as depression, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Environmental concerns

“Artificial lighting has a huge detrimental impact on the natural rhythms of wildlife as well. Insects are lured to their deaths when artificial lights make them more visible to predators and easier to hunt. Owls and songbirds that migrate in the night collide with buildings, attracted to the man-made glare, and cannot follow the stars and moon the way they are internally programmed to do. Reptiles shy away from artificial lighting, which limits where they can look for food. Sea turtle mothers and their hatchlings become disoriented by the glow of lights from beach communities, setting off toward the lights of the houses rather than toward the moon over the ocean. Other animals including bats, raccoons, coyotes, deer and moose need the dark for mating and simply to sleep.

Plants, including many of the deciduous trees found in the Newburyport area, also need periods of dark for proper hormonal structures. In some cases, the streetlights confuse the trees enough to keep their leaves in the winter, which though it may look pretty, is actually very unhealthy for the plants themselves.”

Economic impact

“Billions of dollars are spent on unnecessary lighting each year in the United States. Approximately $2.2 billion is spent on lighting the night sky via unshielded outdoor lights. The lights also have a huge impact on carbon dioxide waste, as well, producing more than 14.7 million tons in the U.S. each year.”

In Dr. Motta’s community, unshielded streetlamps utilize 100-watt light bulbs. Shielded streetlamps paired with 60-watt light bulbs would actually light a larger portion of the road, due to the concentration of the light directed downward.

An easy fix

“Street lights are the biggest single source of light pollution, but anyone can reduce light pollution by keeping lights on his/her own property [dark-sky friendly].

“Light only when you need it, only where you need it, and only with the amount necessary.” – Kelly Beatty, a senior contributing editor for Sky & Telescope magazine and board of directors member for the International Dark-Sky Association.

“Unlike many of today’s lingering environmental concerns, the solutions to light pollution are simple, cost-effective and instant.”

Kelly Beatty really hit the nail with the hammer. Keep it simple. If security concerns your household, install shielded motion sensing lights utilizing energy efficient lamps. Light pollution is 100% irreversible and the effects are instantly noticeable.

Let there be night!

U.S. Enacts Nationwide Light Pollution Ban

Posted on April 1, 2010 by Rob

outdoor lighting at the white houseUsing the vast powers provided by the Antiquities Act of 1906, U.S. President Barack Obama today signed a bill that will make illegal all forms of light pollution. At the signing ceremony, Obama praised the tireless efforts of dark sky warriors across the nation and noted that “the night sky is a national treasure that has been hidden from too many in this great land.” Obama noted that the elimination of light pollution would help contribute towards the dual goals of balancing the nations budget and reducing the emission of global warming green house gases. “Many tough challenges lie ahead of this great nation, but reducing light pollution is something that we can do today, with existing technology”. Noting that the light switch was a device that could be operated by most Americans with little need for training, Obama hoped that more of our problems would be as easy to address.

Under the new legislation signed today, all exterior lights would be limited to 5 minutes of use per night. Obama noted that the White House would take a lead on this issue, stating that “all outdoor light at the White House will be outfitted with motion sensors and only be on for a couple of minutes each night”. Obama hoped that other countries would follow the U.S. lead and enact similar legislation. “I challenge the other nations of the world to follow this bold, new U.S. lead initiative. Doing so will save billions of dollars annually, reduce global emissions and let our children see stars in the night sky.”

Surrey’s record-breaking streetlights make-over starts

Posted on March 3, 2010 by Noel


“This will be the largest scale introduction of this type of street lighting technology ever seen in Britain and meets with our aim to make Surrey one of the best places in the world to live.” – Dr Andrew Pove, Surrey County Council leader

“The new energy efficient technology is expected to save more than 60,000 tons of carbon emissions over the next 25 years. It is also set to save Surrey taxpayers at least £12 million over the same period due to lower energy bills and a better contract deal. There will also be a reduction in light pollution because the new lights direct their beam downwards. The individual lights can be remotely controlled from a control centre in Merrow, Guildford. At present, Surrey’s street lights are programmed to come on and go off at set times in the day, with little opportunity to make energy savings. But under the new system, lighting will be increased most where it is needed and reduced where it is not.

Congratulations Surry!

Thanks to a “Private Finance Initiative grant worth £73.9 million from central government”, construction has begun to replace Surry’s 89,000 old streetlights with new environmentally sound lighting solutions. The old Orange light high pressurized sodium lights are being replaced by shielded, remotely controlled lights a part of an electronic grid that notifies technicians if a light needs replacement. The entire construction process will take five years to upgrade the preexisting lights, 70,000 of which will be replaced, whereas 19,000 will be refurbished. Public investment into programmes such as this one, allow future generations to see untainted skies as well as increased energy savings. Whilst the initial upfront cost may deter weary adopters, it’s a long-term investment for the future with substantial monetary savings. An added boon of this lighting overhaul programme lies in the increased standard of living. How? The city becomes marketable as a ‘dark-sky’ city, where tourists and residents reap the benefits of pristine night skies. Whilst it may not seem most people care about the night sky, I guarantee that if you show someone a pristine night sky, they’ll remember it. Perhaps they’ll even yearn for it again. Nonetheless, Starry Night Lights wishes to once again congratulate Surry on securing funding to retrofit all their ever increasing anachronistic lighting solutions.

Fighting crime alley by alley

Posted on January 22, 2010 by Noel

Image credit:

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HEADLINE:  “OLYMPIA – Downtown business leaders and the city have joined forces to clean and light another alley, reducing both grime and crime, they say.”

“Dirty alleys encourage rodent infestation, standing water and impediments to emergency vehicles.

The city’s long-term goal is turning the alleys into a work of art. Eventually, murals would be added to the backs of buildings. That cuts down on graffiti” – Downtown code-enforcement officer Ruthie Snyder

When one thinks of an alleyway in a city, one does not think of it as a place of safe refuge. Often, an alleyway carries a negative connotation and paints a picture of homelessness, graffiti and crime. Rather than passively accepting alleyways for what they are, enter the city of Olympia and its fairly new city initiative to turn alleyways into “clean, well-lit spaces with lights and murals.” Work has already been done on “a block of alleys between Fourth and State avenues and Jefferson and Cherry streets” and between “Fourth and Fifth avenues and Washington and Franklin streets” so far. The city initiative’s  choice of lighting is also laudable:

“The lights that are installed are “dark sky” lights that are shielded and point down so they don’t create light pollution that muddies the sky with a yellow glow at night.”

Shielded lighting works. Period. One can achieve the same amount of brightness found in a regular high pressure sodium light yet save tremendously on energy costs and clearer night skies. I am curious to see if the city initiative would consider and test out motion sensing lights as part of their plan. Starry Night Lights carries a variety of shielded lighting and motion sensing products for all your needs.

Can a building discourage crime?

Posted on January 11, 2010 by Noel

Image credit: Starry Night Lights
Want to know what makes a home or neighborhood vulnerable to crime? Ask police officers; they see it every day.


Safety by Design, an announced program “by the Lexington Police Department and Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for Crime and the Built Environment,” hopes to help inform “Lexington developers, architects, planners and property owners build and renovate safer homes, neighborhoods and commercial buildings by using design principles known to discourage crime.” Inspired from a successful 20-year-old program in England called Secured by Design, Safety by Design hopes to achieve the same level of success in the United States. Here are a few tenets behind the Safety by Design vision:

“Those factors include the design and strength of doors, windows and locks; landscaping considerations, such as shrubbery height; sidewalk, window and garbage can placement; the style, placement and height of fencing; and site plans that maximize visibility.

Some of the guidelines are common sense, but not all are. For example, Lexington Police Chief Ronnie Bastin said he would have assumed that the more outdoor lighting around a building, the better. But research has shown that it’s not necessary to create a lot of light pollution. The key is to put the right amount of light in the right places to discourage criminals and make people feel safe.

Common building design issues in Lexington that encourage crime include overgrown shrubs, tall privacy fences and a lack of windows on the sides of houses”

According to officials at Safety by Design, one does not need to sacrifice aesthetics in order to build a ‘fortress.’ If anything, Safety by Design, is a voluntary program that offers advice and expertise to “the table that might avoid problems before they happen.” Starry Night Lights‘ catalogue features motion controlled lights, Outdoor Wall Lanterns or even light bulbs to help outfit your home into a safer and more environmentally safe residence.

Streetlight switch-off debate: Your Views

Posted on January 4, 2010 by Noel

David Hook with two lonely street lights in the Norfolk village of Hempnall.
Image credit:
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“In this day and age, when climate change is the topic on everyone’s lips, there are significant reductions in CO2 emissions to be had in this initiative if it’s rolled out across the country. There are cost- savings to be had, and people who have trialled it further afield say there’s no evidence of an increase in criminal activity. Light, like so many things in modern life, is an addiction. Being uncomfortable with darkness is only temporary and, like all addictions, once you can wear it out you come out better the other side. I’m not saying everywhere should be unlit at night – all the main links in the city centre should be lit and if there’s a crime problem then these areas should be lit – but there are many places where the lights are just left on because the manufacturer built a dusk-to-dawn timer in them. Once we get over this knee-jerk reaction of ‘I’m going to get mugged’, we can reduce hugely our CO2 output just by turning off lights in Britain for 30 to 40pc of the time.”  – David Hook, from the Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Much of the article shows pro/contra arguments regarding lighting ordinances. Before delving into both sides, I wish to state some facts. Most city ordinances, in principle, wish to illuminate the streets at night. Fair enough, although an unfortunate consequence of this principle exists: inefficient lighting due to an ineffective design. Most streetlamps require high wattage bulbs to illuminate a portion of the ground. The reason? Most street lamps have light shinning beyond 180 degrees, where the light unnecessarily escapes upwards toward the sky. This light ‘leak’ is inescapable, due to poor generational design, and to compensate for this, cities utilize larger wattage light bulbs. Here is a long term solution to this problem: shielded lighting. Shielded lighting, whether a street lamp or a lawn lamp, directs the light downward – where it is needed. Since the design of shielded lighting directs the light downward, the design is efficient in its light use. The Light produced does not escape into the sky and effectively illuminates the ground. An added boon to shielded lighting lies in utilizing a lower wattage bulb to illuminate the same amount of light the previous generation could. Translation: lower energy costs.

Here are two photo examples:

photo © Alin Tolea


photo © Alin Tolea

As for the first picture, when you see the light leak towards the sky, you see three glaring lights shining in the background. This is often referred as ‘sky glow’ amongst dark sky proponents. So what’s the different between sky glow and light pollution? They’re essentially the same thing, although it’s helpful to think of them this way: if sky glow is on the micro level, then light pollution is on the macro level. This article may seem irrelevant to some since it deals with a smaller community in England rather than a larger metropolitan city such as  London, but the principle still remains – illuminate the streets at night. Both the micro and the macro can make the change towards more cost effective and energy efficient shielded street lamps outlined above.

What about some of the contra arguments discussed in the source of the article?

“I would be interested to know if the council has liaised with the police on the number of break-ins within the proposed areas? My concern would be that retail outlets within the town will be vulnerable without streetlighting acting as a deterrent. Are there any comparative data available of links between well-lit/unlit areas and burglaries/accidents? The cost of petty crime, such as smashed windows, is a continuing issue for businesses, and given the high level of rates paid, one begins to wonder just how these can be justified with the ever-decreasing level of service from the council.” – Jennie Price, who runs a business in Diss

Dr. Barry Clark’s essay “OUTDOOR LIGHTING AND CRIME, PART 1: LITTLE OR NO BENEFIT” found no substantial correlative evidence between lighting and crime prevention exists. So what alternatives exist? As stated earlier, shielded lighting removes glare or ‘sky glow’. This glare hinders an individual’s eyesight by increasing the amount of time to detect contrast due to excessive light scattering within the eye. Translation: Unshielded lights hinder an individual’s ability to immediately identify potential assailants, hooligans, etc. Shielded lighting, therefore, can actually help an individual’s eyesight at night. How? Being able to detect contrasts in their immediate environment would allow an increased awareness of those lurking in the shadows and those who are not.

But what if there’s an alleyway – wouldn’t that pose a danger without light?
A form of shielded lighting would solve this problem: Motion Sensing lighting. Motion sensing lighting only activates when there’s movement about. Not only does it save energy/money by only turning on when there’s movement, but it alerts everyone else of the activity. Furthermore, resident Adam Tartt offers some prudent advice about traveling at night:

“Has anyone driven into Norwich after midnight to be met by 15 sets of traffic lights controlling what? Lights on in service areas, lights on bus stop signs, then office blocks. I am sick and tired of this government lecturing me on carbon reduction when they haven’t got their house in order and I’m tired of large corporates putting prices up and blaming green taxes when they do nothing about getting their own house sorted. I don’t want the lights on, I don’t want to see the waste, and I certainly don’t want to foot the bill. For those opposed to it, do as we used to do – arrange safe transport home, walk in twos, get a cab or take a torch.”

Starry Night Lights offers a variety of custom shielded light fixtures suitable for all facets of living: indoor, outdoor, landscape and commercial. We are committed to preserving the dark skies our ancestors before us enjoyed, so that future generations may enjoy what we know as the night sky. Happy New Year everyone and lets make this year a darker one.

Light pollution worries Edmonton

Posted on September 25, 2009 by Noel

The Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve says steps should be taken to dim the lights in the city so that people can have a better view of the night sky. (JORDAN VERLAGE/Sun Media)

“One of the hopes I have is that children who may only grow up in an urban environment will be able to look up in say 10 years and say, ‘What’s that cloud up there?’ and their parents will say, ‘That’s the Milky Way.’ – Sherrilyn Jahrig, with the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve

Sherrilyn Jahrig engaged Edmonton’s transportation and public works committee yesterday by informing them of how the vexing glare from the Edmonton city-centre renders star gazing as an impossibility. In fact, Ms. Jahrig stated that “Edmonton is one of the brightest cities for its size in North America.” As with nearly every single metropolitan city, Ms. Jahrig is referring to the problems of light pollution. Here are some synergistic solutions to this problem:

*Energy-Efficient Lighting
*Shielded Lighting
*Timed and Motion-Sensored Lighting

Granted, these solutions have a higher start up cost than traditional lighting options, but consider its return investment. Energy efficient light bulbs consume less electricity whilst produce the same amount of lumens. Shielded lighting directs the light where we need it: downward. Utilizing energy efficient light bulbs in conjunction with a shielding apparatus, allows the use for even lower wattage light bulbs to output the same amount of light. Most conventional lighting options opt for higher wattage and lumen ratings to illuminate the ground. Why? To compensate for ‘loss’ of lumens that go upwards toward the sky. Finally, timed and motion-sensored lighting offers light when you need it: to detect motion when personal safety is an utmost priority. An added boon to motion-sensing lighting and timed lighting lies in its increased longevity of the light bulb. Overall, governments would spend less time, money and effort on maintaining the upkeep of these three aggregated solutions-the energy savings alone would offset the initial start up cost. Who wouldn’t want the best deal for the least amount of money? Starry Night Lights specializes in offering these three solutions to provide the ‘holy trinity of lighting; bane to light pollution‘ solutions.


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