Light Pollution

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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!

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