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.

In the dark: Sky observations cast light on pollution

Posted on May 30, 2010 by Noel

A map showing the extent of light pollution across the U.S.

Credit: P. Cinzano, F. Falchi (University of Padova), C. D. Elvidge (NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder). Copyright Royal Astronomical Society. Reproduced from the Monthly Notices of the RAS by permission of Blackwell Science.

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Compared to most states in the union, Arizona has some pockets of dark skies. As for the east coast states, well, their state of the night sky is quite dismal. The only reprieve seems to be found in the Appalachian mountains, the Carolinas and the Atlantic North East. It makes sense as to why the East is more illuminated than the west, given that a sizable portion of the US’ population resides in the East. When I was living in Arizona, I participated in the ‘GLOBE at Night’ measurement, where one notes their present location, quality of the night sky and other comments if you’re so inclined. It took me approximately 3 minutes to complete. The layout was simple and the questions were very straightforward. As it turned out, the Globe project recorded ’17,800 measurements of night sky light pollution from people in 86 countries’ this year. Participation increased 15% worldwide from last year. Whilst it may insignificant, people from around the globe are noticing the adverse affects of light pollution. These people recall a time when one could look up at the stars glittering in the night sky and be left in absolute awe and wonderment. What will happen if no one can make a wish upon a shooting star? That, I do not know. But I do know that light pollution is 100% irreversible.

Let there be night!

Stone Mountain Goes Green

Posted on May 27, 2010 by Noel

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After nearly six months of renovations Stone Mountain Park is ready for Memorial Day weekend! The Laser show lawn has new grass and all the buildings on the lawn have been removed. The park has widened the walkways and added lights. Laser show sound and light towers have been razed, with updated production equipment tucked into the bordering woods on each side. The nearly 200 new lights are all LED fixtures, consuming less energy and creating less light pollution. For the first time, the lights are tied into generators that will automatically start up during power loss.

Stone Mountain Park, a family destination located in Atlanta, Georgia, just retrofitted their laser show to LED fixtures. It is not corollary to think that if one has LED fixtures, that there will be less light pollution. The key word to look for in lighting retrofits is ‘shielding’ or ‘shielded’ lighting. Without proper shielding, even the most efficient light bulb would still emit light upward rather than downward. In essence, having just energy efficient light fixtures by virtue, does not mean it will prevent light pollution. Perhaps the story implies shielding, I’m willing to accept that, but it’s important to address that lighting fixtures must have proper shielding to eliminate light pollution. It’s all in the fixture. Properly shielded fixtures + high efficient light bulbs + motion sensors = best and most efficient lighting system available.

Let there be night!

Light pollution dulls the night sky for stargazers – and drains city funds

Posted on May 26, 2010 by Noel

“Walk around Chicago during the day and you’ll see that wasted lighting isn’t just a problem at night.”

Spencer Rinkus/MEDILL

“Experts advise that using less light doesn’t mean you have to turn the lights off. Purchasing lights that direct illumination downward greatly improves energy efficiency.”

Information courtesy of Johns Hopkins University.

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“When you think about electricity, it’s not just flipping on your light switch and the street lights go on. It impacts the air, it impacts the water, it impacts the land, tremendously. If you assume maybe 6 or 7 cents per kilowatt hour, we calculated it out to $18 million per year. If you think maybe 30 percent of the light is being lost from those 225,000 lights, that’s $6 million dollars going nowhere.” – Debra Norvil, “a former environmental compliance engineer for ComEd. She is now a light conservation advocate who draws on years of experience at coal-burning power plants.”

It seems as if news’ headlines across the globe utter the words ‘financial cutbacks’ daily. As a consequence of budget cutbacks, many people, businesses and governments have been considering reducing their lighting budget. Whilst many individuals a cry foul to darkened streets and issues of safety, proper lighting principles makes walking outside at night even safer. How? Shielded lighting directs the light downward, where it is needed. Though coupling traditional high pressure lights with shielding would work, it would still be a costly solution over time. High pressure lights are woefully inefficient and consume exorbitant amount of energy. Replacing a high pressure sodium light with high efficiency LED or CFL bulb will reduce the required energy input, but will not affect its lumen output whatsoever. If one wishes to further improve their shielded lighting fixtures with high efficiency light bulbs, one can utilize motion sensors. Motion sensors will allow for the light to turn on when there is movement in the vicinity and it’s a sure sign to alert anyone that there’s someone or something nearby. Considering these options, try to imagine the savings. Small towns could save some money. Medium sized cities could also save a considerable amount of money. Metropolises’ could save an absolute fortune. Shielded lighting + high efficient light bulbs + motion sensors = a bright idea.

Let there be night!

Things to Do in Sharm El Sheikh: Stargazing

Posted on May 24, 2010 by Noel

Stargazing in the clear Egyptian night

On my last trip to Egypt, I saw the rings of Saturn, craters on the moon and a shooting star—all on a clear night overlooking the Red Sea at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh Egypt.

That’s thanks to the Resort’s stargazing programme. The clear air and lack of light pollution make the Sinai Peninsula an ideal place to explore the night sky, and Four Seasons offers weekly sessions with an astronomer and a top-of-the-range 8-inch Meade telescope.

Our astronomer, Paula Müller—there are several—led us through the night sky to help us understand the size and complexity of the universe. She wove in facts with the mystery and mythology innate in astronomy, introducing us to planets, stars and well-known constellations.

She also linked the stars to ancient Egypt. For example, the Pharaohs knew when it was time to take the farmers out of the fields and put them to work on other projects by keeping an eye on Sirius, because its rising over Memphis predicted the annual arrival of the Nile floods.

Viewing the rings of Saturn was a thrill, as was taking a good look at the craters on the moon—its arid desolation jumped out at me through the lens of the telescope. Stargazing the desert sky is an unexpected adventure for all ages; and if you’re more interested, the Resort can arrange for a field trip out into the desert with the astronomer and an even bigger telescope!

I find it humbling to know that the ancients before us derived much pleasure from stargazing the heavens above. Despite our technological advances, people will always be able to navigate from the stars, know which season it is from the positions of the constellations and see other planets in the skies. Yet, there’s one thing that threatens our ability to use the stars. It’s light pollution. Light pollution is a harmful human manifestation that negatively affects all sentient life on Earth. If current lighting trends continue, that is, unshielded lighting fixtures with old incandescent bulbs, much of the globe will never never be able to see the Milky Way Galaxy. Notice how I didn’t included the word ‘again’ after ‘Galaxy’ in the preceding sentence. Light pollution is 100%, no ifs or buts, irreversible. If we abandon old lighting principles and adapt to new lighting principles, light pollution will become a faint memory in human history. A good place to start, lies in local government participation. Express your dissatisfaction with current lighting principles and encourage your community to retrofit existing lighting fixtures. Remember the old adage, “you don’t know if you have something good, until you lose it?” For stargazers today, they know they’re losing something good. But what about future generations, where the stars above are ‘known’ only through pictures? The time to act is now.

Let there be night!

A dark park where you can party with the stars

Posted on May 19, 2010 by Noel

“These images of the Dumbbell Nebula, left, in the constellation Vulpecula (visible with binoculars), and the Aurora Borealis were taken during a previous Star Party at Cherry Springs State Park in Potter County, Pa., an International Dark Sky Park.”
Photo by Alan Friedman

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“The electric company provides free light-shielding caps to local residents to contain light pollution, and strict state laws maintain the integrity of the dark skies. Estimates indicate visitors can see 10,000 stars with the naked eye, along with the nucleus of the Milky Way and, when conditions are right, the aurora borealis.”

Cherry Springs State Park received the International Dark Sky Park recognition in 2007. In fact, to date, it still remains as the only IDA recognized areas east of the Mississippi. So why has this small park achieved such a prestigious title? Well, for one, the closest city  to Cherry Springs State Park is located 60 miles. It’s located atop of the Allegheny Plateau and because it’s located in the Susquehannock Forest, it escapes natural and unnatural fog. As noted above, the electric company actually provides free light-shielding caps to contain light pollution. Yes, you read that correctly. The electric company actually provides free light-shielding caps to contain light pollution. That’s absolutely unheard of, yet certainly laudable! No wonder the cottage industry there has absolutely exploded due to the high demand for pristine, dark skies.

Congratulations on your continued efforts, Cherry Springs State Park. May you enjoy pristine dark skies for many, many years to come!

Let there be night!

It’s Darker in Big Bend National Park, Thanks to a Light Reduction Project in the Chisos Basin

Posted on May 17, 2010 by Noel

Results of the lighting reduction project in the Chisos Basin. NPS photo.

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“The Big Bend lighting project is a collaborative effort with the National Park Service and a Best Lighting Practices grant with Musco Lighting. This grant is administered through the National Park Foundation and the NPS’ Denver Service Center, and part of the funding is coming from the Friends of Big Bend National Park. Forever Resorts, Inc., contributed labor and made other donations to the project, which is among the first of its kind of this scope in the National Park System.”

“The new LED fixtures are rated at less than 1 watt each and replace 60 watt incandescent and fluorescent lamps. That adds up to some impressive results: a 98% reduction in wattage, energy consumption, and greenhouse emissions. Park budgets are always tight, and this project will provide some welcome cost savings. It’s estimated that annual energy bills for the equipment that was replaced will drop from $3,292 to $164.”

“The amount of energy that will now be used to light the Chisos Basin is a tiny fraction of the energy used with the old style lights. So from an environmental standpoint, and a sustainability standpoint, it’s a really good project. This is a great project that we wanted to celebrate tonight. You just do not get that many projects that have this wide a range of benefits. So I think this one is really worth celebrating. We are proud to be working in concert with surrounding towns and agencies to improve the quality of the night skies in the Big Bend region.” – William Wellman, park superintendent

Located in Texas, Big Bend National Park offers some of the most pristine dark skies in the country. Pictured above, the Chisos Basin area is one of the more developed areas within the park. As you can see from the photograph above, Chisos Basin offered decent views in the top photograph. You can see a few unshielded lights in the first photograph, but in reality, most of the light pollution within Big Bend National Park came from the Chisos Basin are. But because of the retrofit, the Chisos Basin area now offers even darker skies whilst significantly reducing their annual electrical budget by ~95%. How is the Chisos Basin area saving so much? Traditional 60 watt incandescent and fluorescent lamps have been replaced with new LED fixtures are rated at less than 1 watt each – a 98% reduction in wattage! Furthermore, the park claims that:

“the new LED fixtures utilize technology that provides comparable light with dramatically less electricity, have an average life of 50,000 hours and provide a natural moon glow color-rendering effect. These new fixtures are designed to complement existing infrastructure, blend into the landscape, and are appropriately shielded, providing illumination where needed on the horizontal plane.”

Starry Night Lights wishes to congratulate Big Bend National Park on their successful lighting retrofit. As you can see in the ‘after’ photograph, you can really notice a huge difference between the two photographs. The light is contained, yet illuminates the same original area as well as the first where it is needed: downward. For that, cheers!

Let there be night!

Night-time creatures ‘in crisis’

Posted on May 14, 2010 by Noel

Moths are an important food source for the UK’s bats.

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“Butterfly Conservation and the Bat Conservation Trust are asking people to take part in a “National Moth Night” on 15 May to find out more about the creatures and their habitats. They say UK moth numbers have fallen by a third in the past 40 years. This poses a threat to the bats that feed on them. There are now 17 species of bat in the UK, all of which are protected by law because their numbers have decreased so dramatically.”

“We need to learn as much as we can about which moths are facing the biggest problems so we can direct our work into protecting them and their habitats. That’s why we are appealing to the public to get involved and look for moths on their patch. Without moths, the whole of biodiversity starts to unravel.” – Richard Fox, surveys manager at Butterfly Conservation

When a species comes close to extinction, its link in the chain begins to loosen. Whilst measures have been taken towards moderately to highly endangered animals around the globe by creating wildlife sanctuaries, they have technically been removed from their natural ecosystem i.e. extinct in the wild. Certainly species have naturally (e.g. Ice Age) and unnaturally (celestial bodies colliding), come and gone over the centuries, but what occurs when a species continues to ‘annihilate’ numerous other species at an alarming rate? Once a chink in the chain separates, other species connected to that chain experience its effects. Regarding the article, moths, a primary food source for bats, are dwindling in numbers. If moths are dwindling in population, it’s corollary that bats will dwindle in population. Furthermore, consider the bats’ natural predators: raptors, owls, opossums and snakes. Frightening, to say the least.

So how does lighting fit into this equation? It’s very simple. Most organisms posses and operate under a circadian rhythm, i.e. 24 hour clock. The effects of Artificial light sources at on organisms’ circadian rhythms have been scientifically proven as detrimental. There’s an article here that attempts to hypothesize the relationship between the loss of moth populations and increase in light pollution. The article suggests two theories: moths confuse bright light sources for the natural moon light and once the moths are in the bright light, they’re literally blinded by the light and can not see how to escape it. Considering that, let’s move on to bats. To avoid its natural predators, bats fly in darkness to their hunting grounds. Regrettably, bats’ flight paths have become more dangerous, due to the lack of darkness. So what’s a practical solution to this problem? Shielded lighting. Shielded lighting directs the light where it is needed: downward. It can utilize lower wattage light bulbs to bright the same area a traditional unshielded high pressure sodium lights would. One can also employ motion sensors to emphasize light ‘when one needs it.’ When lights are pointed downward, organisms (humans included) can continue to function on their circadian rhythm. Sure, there are other factors that also affect species such as waste, water quality, pollution, etc. But consider the following fact: light pollution is 100% irreversible.

Let there be night!

Sea turtles face lots of obstacles

Posted on May 12, 2010 by Noel

Image found here.
Picture Credit:
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“The single most important contributing fact a landowner could do to assist in the recovery of the species is reduce artificial light along the coast.” – Rick Clark, chief of science and resources management for the National Park Service, Gulf Islands National Seashore

Over the years, Starry Night Lights has written about the sea turtle population in the Gulf of Mexico’s coast. Sea turtles, despite having several natural predators and susceptible cold weather, have been thriving for thousands of years. Human presence, specifically unshielded lighting products, has been a burden for sea turtles since the sixties. Human technology, specifically in this case, an oil rig, has been leaking for since April 20th – 22 days and counting. Once you factor in all the adversity a sea turtle in the gulf faces now, it’s rather disheartening to take in; especially when you consider the ‘big picture’ potential loss of biodiversity, environmental impact and damage to the Gulf of Mexico’s coast – it’s absolutely catastrophic. Yes, there are sea turtle friendly lights which prevent hatchlings from relying on bright nearby objects as a guide towards the sea (sea turtles have been using the moon as a ‘nightlight’ to guide them from the sand to the ocean for thousands of years), but will this recent oil spill be the coup de grâce? Time will tell, I suppose.

Let there be night!

Austrian village seeks UNESCO protection for its starry skies

Posted on May 10, 2010 by Noel

Vienna at night
Photographer: ursblick, 1/19/2009 8:39:04 AM

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“Nestling in a hollow, and surrounded by low hills, the 1,600- strong community is shielded from what star lovers call “light pollution.” Grossmugl’s drive for heritage status was initiated in 2006 when a group of astronomers visited the village. “They said, ‘Could you please switch off the spotlights around the church, they are bothering us,’” local hobby astronomer and innkeeper Charly Schillinger says. To astronomers’ astonishment, the village authority obliged two years later. “They could hardly believe that there is a community where something like that is possible,” says mayor Karl Lehner.”

“Meanwhile, the citizens of Grossmugl are already implementing ideas to protect starlight that have been promoted by astronomers, UNESCO and other organizations over the past years. Street lamps that cast as little light as possible onto buildings and into the sky have been installed. Mayor Lehner also plans to offer “light consulting” by astronomers, who would advise citizens on how to avoid excess light. He also wants to develop low-key tourism projects geared towards stargazers.”

“We must protect the human right to see the Milky Way; the starry sky is a piece of cultural heritage that has been a source of knowledge for generations.” – Viennese astronomer Guenther Wuchterl

The small village of Grossmugl, located 40km (~25 miles) north of Vienna, believes the dark skies are fundamental to the human condition. These folks have their heart in the right place. Whilst the standards to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site are quite high, I imagine the residents of Grossmugl and Austria for that matter, will come together to make Grossmugl a world landmark.

As you can see from the photograph above, the Austrian capital Vienna offers very little in regards to sky gazing opportunities. Residents and tourists alike can expect to see an average of ~40 stars on a good night in the Vienna night sky. Compare the Vienna night sky to Grossmugl’s average of 5,000. That’s an enormous difference, especially considering how Grossmugl lies just ~25 miles north of Vienna. We at Starry Night Lights wish Grossmugl the best of luck, for your perseverance to achieve such a recognition due to your principles is heartwarming.

Let there be night!

Brits Lose Sleep Over Light Pollution

Posted on May 7, 2010 by Noel

Nighttime satellite image shows how prevasive artificial light is acrosss the U.K. and the rest of Europe. Photo: U.S. Military

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“The costs of not acting are clear.“Unnecessarily high energy bills … more carbon emissions, disrupted sleeping patterns for people, disturbance to wildlife, and a night sky bereft of the majesty of the Milky Way.” – CPRE campaigner Emma Marrington told the BBC.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) wants its night skies back from light pollution. A small survey of ~1,500 participants with the British Astronomical Association revealed that 50% of the respondents claim their sleep has been disrupted due to light pollution. Even though it’s a rather small sample size and perhaps, may not account for stress, sleep disorders, diet or say poor bedding (or other complex factors), the spirit of the study is what matters: can excessive light scientifically disrupt sleep patterns? The answer is yes. Excessive light disrupts organisms’ circadian rhythms – human and animal alike. Think of the circadian rhythm as a 24-hour biological clock. Each and every sentient organism functions within this clock daily – there’s a day and a night activity. What I mean by day and night activity is how the brain perceives its surroundings during those periods. Typically, most humans are active during the day and most humans are at rest during the night. Naturally, the circadian rhythm can adjust itself if circumstances require it, e.g. jet lag, but long term imbalances can lead to detrimental effects (lack of sleep, lack of energy, etc.). The circadian rhythm resets when one awakes from perceiving light, yet naps during the day do not disrupt it – it may even be more beneficial to do so. So yeah, good sleep is critical and excessive lighting has been proven to affect the quality of sleep. Let’s say goodnight to light pollution and wake up to a new day.

Let there be night!


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