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The Illuminati Project Pushes For Dark Skies In 2009 315

Posted by timothy
from the daddy-what-were-light-bulbs? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "2009 is the 400th anniversary of Galileo's observations of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter published in Sidereus Nuncius ('Starry Messenger'). To improve scientific literacy, the NOAO and NASA are promoting dark-sky initiatives in 2009 to draw attention to the problem of light pollution which obscures nearly all night sky colors and objects except for the moon and a few bright stars and planets. Project Illuminati is a Flickr project by James Cann to showcase the beauty of light pollution to raise awareness and educate fellow Earthmates to lower energy consumption and become more curious about our place in the universe."
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The Illuminati Project Pushes For Dark Skies In 2009

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  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @06:38PM (#26365509) Homepage

    getting out into the middle of nowhere makes. On a clear night out in Yellowstone, for example, there are so many stars in the sky it can be hard to find constellations you're used to seeing in the city. Really beautiful.

    People need to get past the idea that you have to try to illuminate every shadow. All you're doing is ruining people's night vision, and thus making the remaining shadows "darker".

  • Tucson, AZ tries... (Score:5, Informative)

    by FrankSchwab (675585) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:00PM (#26365793) Journal

    Tucson has been working on this for years to protect various local observatories. It's also the home to the international dark sky association: http://www.darksky.org/mc/page.do [darksky.org]

    They have a city ordinance making it illegal to have a light shining upwards - all lights (street lights, security lights, porch lights, etc) have to have a reflector. It's apparently pretty easy to police - bare bulbs are highly visible from the police helicopter.

    Seems to be kinda silly to spend your lighting budget trying to illuminate the universe anyway.

  • Flagstaff (Score:5, Informative)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:12PM (#26365937)
    Flagstaff, AZ, home to the Lowell Observatory has had a black sky ordinance on the books for 50 years now and it works wonders.

    There is plenty of lighting for the town and yet you can see stars like you should be able to see stars.
  • by bunratty (545641) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:26PM (#26366125)
    Global dimming [wikipedia.org] doesn't have as much of an effect as you imply. From 1960 to 1990, there was a 4% reduction in light reaching the Earth's surface due to global dimming. Since 1990, global dimming has been decreasing, so there's an increase in light getting through the atmosphere. The total global dimming now seems to be about 10%.
  • Re:The name game (Score:2, Informative)

    by Klootzak (824076) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:34PM (#26366217)

    The (primary) meaning of Illuminati:
    1. People claiming to be unusually enlightened with regard to a subject.

    Just because people associate a word with something other than its meaning doesn't mean we should stop using the word. In this instance, I think it's quite a clever piece of word-play.

  • Re:I don't see any s (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:34PM (#26366221)

    Or is this a different Illuminati Project ?

    You don't see the s? I can see the s just fine.

  • Re:Red lights (Score:3, Informative)

    by drolli (522659) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:44PM (#26366341) Journal
    I always believed the color of lights in the photo labs has something to do with the insensitivity of the photo paper.
  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:43PM (#26366937) Homepage Journal

    Light pollution is just one of the by-products of industrialization.

    Close to my house the Bolte Bridge [wikipedia.org] is a massive source of light pollution because it is illuminated from below by lights which point up. Environmentalists complained, pointing to design standards which specify how such lighting should be done, but noting came of it.

    Sometimes we just have to not do stupid things, like pumping light into outer space, which has plenty of light already.

  • Re:Red lights (Score:5, Informative)

    by fireman sam (662213) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:24PM (#26367231) Homepage Journal

    correct. The pupil is effected (affected? - who gives a fsck) by the blue scale. The use of a red light for night time map reading etc allows the pupil to remain open and there is no visibility lost when the light is switched off.

    Try for yourself. Get a torch and a red filter and a blue filter. Go out at night and let your eyes get used to the darkness. Shine the torch through the red filter such that you cannot see any white lite. You will be able to see quite well after you switch the torch off. Now try with the blue filter. Once you switch the torch off you will have to wait until your eyes adjust to the darkness again.

  • Re:Cost of energy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:46PM (#26367425) Homepage

    First off, let's not pretend that light pollution is harmless to human health. The circadian system is at least in part regulated by the amount and type of light that our eyes receive. As for safety, there are several types. As far as traffic goes, street lights are generally positively correlated with safety at intersections, but lighting of roadways between intersections shows mixed results in the studies I've seen.

    Back to the main point of your post, though: crime. Ever heard of the Chicago Alley Lighting Project? In 1998, Chicago attempted to test this very theory: that increasing lighting of dark places would reduce crimes like rape and muggings. They took two eight-square-block areas, one for study and one as a control, and tripled the lighting in the study area. Guess what happened? Crime went *UP* in the test area, in all categories -- 77% for property crime, 32% for violent crime, etc -- an overall increase of 40%. The daytime crime rate in the study area dropped 23%. In the control area, nighttime crime only went up 19%, while daytime went down 21%.

    Overlighting an area makes the shadows appear darker and makes it easier for criminals to see what they're doing. Extra lighting makes people *feel* safer, but it usually doesn't make them any safer. For public safety, the goal should be not to make as much illumination as possible, but to even out illumination -- not too bright in the bright places, not to dim in the dark places.

  • Re:I am confused... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ppanon (16583) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:52PM (#26367477) Homepage Journal
    LED Street lights [ledlights.ca] should help a lot with this. LED illumination is a lot more directional and therefore there should have a lot less wasted photons/energy. As a bonus it saves money [www.york.ca] for the same level of illumination. Pilot projects [eco-can.ca] are already under way.
  • African Environment (Score:4, Informative)

    by ProfessionalCookie (673314) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:20PM (#26368143) Journal
    Here's a shot I took the other night of the sky here in the south east of Africa. Sorry it's small (internet here ain't cheap, hehe) but the clouds and trees show that those are real stars in the sky not just sensor noise. enjoy, http://edified.org/external/africa-stars.jpg [edified.org]
  • Re:I am confused... (Score:2, Informative)

    by FatdogHaiku (978357) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:32PM (#26368221)
    I can tell you that having lived in the sticks for years (avg roughly 1 home per sq. mile) that we crank up the high powered yard lights. In the good old days it was the frosty white of mercury vapor, but they blocked the sale of those so now you see the golden glow of sodium lights... on at dusk on off at dawn. Sadly, it's necessary to keep the tweaks from taking everything that is not nailed down.
  • Re:I am confused... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 08, 2009 @01:11AM (#26368743)

    Blue is great until you get fog. The wavelength of blue light is about the same size as water, so is highly dispersed in foggy conditions. There's a reason why sodium-discharge lamps are so popular in coastal California.

  • Re:I am confused... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 08, 2009 @03:36AM (#26369403)

    I live in England, there are very few places, if any, where light pollution does not affect the night sky.

    The most remote places I have been to are Pembrook (South Wales) and the lake district. I've seen light pollution, even though it is slight, in both of these places.

    In the last 10 or so years the level of light pollution where I live (the edge of the peak district) has noticable increased. I used to be able to make out the milky way very easily at night, but can't see it at all any more. I don't think this is because my eyesight is degrading.

    Not everyone has a 'nowhere' to drive to.

  • Re:Simple Example (Score:2, Informative)

    by Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @04:21AM (#26369567)
    Do you understand that running the lamp at lower power would mean lower pollution from power plants (as less energy would be needed to power the lights already in existence) and lower light pollution? I'm giving the the benefit of the doubt here that you really misread and aren't just trolling...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:00AM (#26369981)

    Try camping in the woods. You won't see shit without a light. Lights also keep dangerous animals like cougars away.

    Don't like the light, then go somewhere else.

  • Re:I am confused... (Score:3, Informative)

    by lorenzo.boccaccia (1263310) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @09:13AM (#26371235)
    please, "look at the pretty sky" is only the leitmotif of the campaign. there are much more consequences of the current level of light pollution, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution#Consequences [wikipedia.org].

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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