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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 Bragador (1036480) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @06:44PM (#26365583)
    Here in Quebec, one of our parks is actually also protecting the sky. It's a world premier and it is possible. Also, having more efficient lighting saves money so everyone is much more happy from it. http://www.sepaq.com/En/Pages/COM/popUp.cfm?no=588 [sepaq.com]
  • Dark Sky Parks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by notseamus (1295248) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @06:48PM (#26365621)

    In Galloway in Scotland, the local tourist board is trying to set up a dark sky park. The area that they're planning to open it is apparently the darkest place in Europe.

    There are already two in the US, in Utah (http://www.nps.gov/nabr/parknews/news040507.htm) and Northern Pennsylvania (http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/cherrysprings.aspx). This BLDGBLOG article mentions suggests World Heritage sites for experiencing darkness, set up to protect dark areas: http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/dark-sky-park.html [blogspot.com]

    I recently visited Poland (Krakow) and there the level of street lighting was a lot lower, resulting in reduced light pollution. Streets were mostly lit with light reflected from buildings. It's surprising to be able to see the night sky from the middle of a city of 1 million. It's not comparable to countryside darkness by any means, but it really changes the character of a city.

  • Red lights (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bragador (1036480) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @06:50PM (#26365661)
    Whenever I explain your point to other people, they look at me like I'm from another planet. I usually tell them that if they really want lights, they should use red lights and explain to them why it doesn't ruin their night vision and why astronomers and photolabs use red lights.
  • by Monkey_Genius (669908) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @06:56PM (#26365733)
    Light pollution is just one of the by-products of industrialization. Fifteen-hundred years ago the air was a lot cleaner, hence more transparent which means more starlight/moonlight reaches the surface at night, than it is today -less soot, smoke, dirt, suspended aerosols, smog- so much so it is estimated, that the light from the stars alone would have enough to read a newspaper by -had newspapers existed then. If we want to see the sky as Galileo saw it, we're going to need more than just turning off the lights to do so.
  • Go where it's dark (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KalvinB (205500) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @06:57PM (#26365741) Homepage

    There are plenty of areas around which are void of lighting. Often times lights are necessary for safety and although you may be able to encourage people to use mirrors and what not to maximize the amount of light hitting the ground rather than going up into the sky, you're not going to have much luck getting populated areas to turn down the lights much. Lighting helps avoid crime.

    You can't have a dark city.

    The government should just make sure they have large enough plots of land that keep the cities far away so people can go visit and view the dark sky.

  • Re:I am confused... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jadin (65295) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @06:57PM (#26365743) Homepage

    There are a lot of things people can do to stop light pollution without increasing risks.

    The easiest example I remember is streetlights that use cones to direct the light at the ground instead of letting it escape every direction including up into the sky. The amount of light we have on the ground remains the same and light pollution is noticeably reduced by this simple example.

    Thanks for making me waste a mod point by replying to your knee-jerk response.

    - I'm also confused by their campaign choice, let's stop light pollution cause it's so.. beautiful!

  • sprawl (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:00PM (#26365799) Homepage Journal

    My neighbors are typical americans - they came out into what was the countryside (our house was in the middle of nowhere for decades, now it looks like suburbs.)

    After they built their McMansions, closer together than some of the houses in the city, using up the woods and fields I used to romp in, they installed huge arrays of sodium-vapor lighting on their houses, which they leave on 24 hours a day. For "security," or to make it homey, or whatever.

    I used to go in the back yard to stargaze, I could even see the aurora borealis sometimes - in NY! We never even bothered to replace the outside floodlight over the driveway for years after it died, but the latest thing for all these new people seems to be to have a gazillion lights. Houses, cars, SUVs, three-wheelers, all festooned with lights - long driveways lined with bright lights left on at all times.

    I don't get it. Why do people move out to the country if they don't want it to be like the country?

  • Re:Simple Example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by conureman (748753) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:06PM (#26365867)

    In order for the light to remain the same, you'd probably have to reduce the power to the lamp.

  • by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:07PM (#26365873) Homepage Journal

    yes, but you can be smarter about it.
    My street could loose 1/3 the street lights and it wouldn't impact crime.
    Lights with caps, lower light that shine across a street instead of down, and so on.

  • Re:sprawl (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nethead (1563) <joe@nethead.com> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:14PM (#26365971) Homepage Journal

    I don't get it. Why do people move out to the country if they don't want it to be like the country?
    Because they like the city even less. It's not safe for their spoiled miniconsumers and there is no room there to build their new starter-castle and pico-estate. They want to live the soap-opera lifestyle and do so by incurring deep debt. Just wait a few years and I have a feeling that a lot of those estates will be dark or at least most of the lights busted and unrepaired.

  • by SirLurksAlot (1169039) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:21PM (#26366075)

    I know exactly what you mean. In my younger days my family lived in rural Missouri where they didn't have any street lights (back country roads are like that.....or used to be at any rate). I could go outside on any given night and see the Milky Way. I've since moved central Ohio and now I realize what a problem street lamps are for stargazing. It is a real shame, and I can't help but think about the number of people who have grown up in the city and never experienced a true night sky.

    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".

    I'm just pitching in the dark here (insert rimshot :-P), but I think the major argument for all the street lights in most places is presumably safety. I know that in the city that I live in there are streets I actively avoid at night (as well as during the day come to think of it) because of the part of town they're in and their lack of street lamps. I would love to see more cities using anti-light pollutions lamps, as this would really be the best of both worlds.

  • Cost of energy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:26PM (#26366131) Homepage
    As the cost of energy rises in the medium future, I think this will sort itself out. Towns will question why they are spending so much on lighting and cut back. Generally, households use all they electricity they can afford so rising prices will make people cut back. People don't (usually) run the AC in the summer with the front door wide open. People don't like heating/cooling the outside. It's too expensive and wasteful. Similarly, I think people will curb their habits of trying to light entire cities at night.
  • Re:sprawl (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mbone (558574) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:27PM (#26366143)

    I don't understand this myself. It should be dark at night.

    I also think it is false security. If the lights are on, they can see you. If the lights are off (and your eyes dark adopted) you can see them.

  • Re:sprawl (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:30PM (#26366189) Homepage Journal

    Funny you should say that. The house that the worst guy built in the field next door - destroying a field, wetlands, the area that deer used to cross in, where wild turkeys used to congregate in scores, where there was a stream with fish, all destroyed and moved... just finished building his monstrosity a year ago.

    The place took almost two years to build, and he finally got to move in. Suddenly there's a "for sale" sign out front. I wonder what happened.

    So, beautiful wild land full of nature and wildlife was destroyed to make room for a soon-to-be-vacant house.

  • Terrible Photos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nullchar (446050) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:04PM (#26366569)

    Only the first [flickr.com] photo of the Group [flickr.com] is any good at "showing" light pollution. The rest are terrible.

  • by Bragador (1036480) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:13PM (#26366649)
    The problem is that you only get dark corners if there are lights nearby. If not, people will see you move around in the dark.
  • by daveime (1253762) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:45PM (#26366957)

    Archimedes Plutonium has found a new stomping ground I think. Update on his shares portfolio at 11.

  • Re:I am confused... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:49PM (#26366987) Journal
    What about switching to blue lights? I saw some shots of streets where they had switched to blue street lights(Japan, I think) and not only did it seem to help with light pollution but according to the article it actually saw a reduction in crime where the blue lights were in place. They weren't sure why exactly, there was some speculation that it caused criminals to pause as it was harder to judge where they could and couldn't be seen, or perhaps the color simply made it harder for them to judge their target, hell who knows. But if it works we could have a win/win here. Because from the pics I saw there was plenty of light from the blue street lights without the spreading that you see from the white. And as a plus it looks really pretty at night.
  • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:56PM (#26367037) Homepage

    yea, i still remember the first time i went stargazing somewhere with practically no light pollution. i was staying at a rural Buddhist temple/monastery in Taiwan for a Buddhist summer camp. Taiwan has a somewhat tropical climate, and i remember it being a warm summer night with a very soothing breeze. the group of us just laid on the roof of the monastery for hours staring up at the star-filled sky. it was absolutely breathtaking.

    being able to see the night sky like that really is one of those simple pleasures that i wish more people could experience. i mean, it doesn't cost any money really. all you have to do is get away from the light pollution found in most major cities. but i guess that's becoming harder and harder to do these days.

    i remember when i was growing up and my parents and i were still living with my grandma in Taiwan, my dad had a skylight installed in our room directly above the bed so that we could look at the stars at night. back then our home town was still transitioning from a farming community to a medium-sized urban population center. so there was some light pollution, but you could still see the stars at night. and whenever my cousins spent the weekend with us, we'd run down to the local 7-11 and pick up a ton of snacks (Taiwan has a great selection of junk food =P) and just hang out under the "moonroof"--it was funner than watching TV (well, in Taiwan everything on cable after 10 PM is basically porn) or playing video games.

    sadly, the last time i went back to Taiwan (~4 years ago) the town had become completely (over)industrialized. i mean, there were already a few factories going up in the area when we were still living there in the early 90's, but by the time i went back the whole place had become a full-blown industrial/commercial district. the air was smoggy; the roads were dirty & littered; the creeks & irrigation channels that once ran by the fields were all either dried up or disgustingly polluted; and you could no longer see the stars at night.

    but i guess that's the cost of economic growth...

  • Re:Red lights (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:24PM (#26367221) Homepage

    Red lights are used by people with telescopes. This page [stlplaces.com] has a good bit of detail on the biology behind night vision and different colors. The basic summary? If you want fast dark adaptation, use blue-green. If you want to see detail and can afford to lose peripheral vision, use very low level deep red. For general walking-around light. blue-green with enough red to get rid of the night blind spot (or dim white). If you need to see color, dim white.

  • by actionbastard (1206160) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:56PM (#26367971)
    Global dimming specifically measures the reduction in the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface of the Earth because of atmospheric aerosols. It has only been measured for fifty or so years and does not take into account the reduction in surface irradiance that has occurred because of natural or man-made causes in the the nearly two hundred years prior to when record keeping started. Aerosol Optical Depth [allenpress.com] as well as 'plain old' Optical Depth [wikipedia.org], are measures of the transparency of an optical medium -like the atmosphere- at optical wavelengths and have a greater effect on dim, point-sources, of light -such as stars- than they do on brighter extended sources of light -the Moon and the Sun- since small aerosol particles in the atmosphere have a greater tendency to scatter the light -which reduces the apparent brightness and increases the extinction- of point sources. If the atmosphere was truly 'clean', then the only phenomenon that an observer would have to contend with is 'Rayliegh Scattering [wikipedia.org]'. A short article over at 'Sky and Telescope's" site, ties it all together [skyandtelescope.com]. The reduction in atmospheric transparency since the Middle Ages due to man-made pollution has, by some estimates, reduced the brightness of the stars in the night sky by as much as twenty-five percent. There was an article published last year -that may have been mentioned here on \.- that discussed this very situation. Unfortunately, it escapes both my memory and that of Google.
  • Re:I am confused... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dan541 (1032000) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @01:01AM (#26368679) Homepage

    Or install Google earth.

  • Re:I am confused... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KlaymenDK (713149) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @03:41AM (#26369417) Journal

    drive for a couple hours

    You're lucky if you live somewhere where darkness is only a car drive away.
    The islands that constitute my home country are pretty thoroughly populated, so there's no direction in which a couple hours' drive would get you to a dark spot; I'd have to drive a good distance into the neighbouring country. Not something I'd do for casual stargazing to awe and inspire the kids!

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

    by conureman (748753) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @04:13AM (#26369535)

    IIRC an astronomer at Lick Observatory told me once that the High Pressure Sodium lamps caused worse problems than the Mercury Vapor lamps, but the cities were switching over (back in the '60s) to get more lumens per watt of electricity. Those fucking tweakers are amazing aren't they? Here I think they carry nail-pullers.

  • Re:I am confused... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @04:50AM (#26369689)
    What is really sad is that I live in a city where you can only see one or two stars. We went out to a park on the edge of the city with some friends and their kids. It got dark, which happens early at this time of year in the UK. You could see about fifty stars in the sky on the side opposite the city and their kids were saying "wow, look at all the stars".

    If they travelled about 30 miles they would have been able to see a thousand or so and just made out the milky way. If they travelled 100 miles they would have seen real dark skies - but they had obviously done neither.
  • Re:Dark Sky Parks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by conureman (748753) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @05:27AM (#26369837)

    One of the phenomena I observed while enjoying the Northridge Earthquake of '94 was a starry sky over Los Angeles. It'd be nice if the engineers could sell new lights to our cities that would allow that again.

  • Re:I am confused... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TakeyMcTaker (963277) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @01:38PM (#26374923)

    Targeted blue lights may correlate with lowered suicide rates:

    http://www.physorg.com/news148153021.html [physorg.com]

    However, streetlights in general have not been proven to prevent any crime:

    http://www.delscope.demon.co.uk/information/lightpollution.htm#security [demon.co.uk]

    http://amper.ped.muni.cz/light/crime/lp040_1h.html [ped.muni.cz]

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