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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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  • I am confused... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GweeDo (127172) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:38PM (#26365503) Homepage

    They are trying to promote dark skies (which of course show some amazing celestial bodies) by showing how pretty of a red sky light pollution makes???

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ppanon (16583)
      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.
  • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:38PM (#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".

    • Red lights (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Bragador (1036480) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:50PM (#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 Klootzak (824076) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:24PM (#26366105)

        Whenever I explain your point to other people, they look at me like I'm from another planet.

        You'll get used to it, eventually... sometimes the easiest way is to just tell them that you ARE ;)

        • by Aladrin (926209)

          I knew a guy that tried that. At least, I think he was 'trying' it and not really believing it. It didn't work well for him.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drolli (522659)
        I always believed the color of lights in the photo labs has something to do with the insensitivity of the photo paper.
        • by Bragador (1036480)
          You're making me doubt. I'll have to check. I always understood it was because the red light was weaker.
          • I believe red lights are used by the military where people need to keep their night vision.
            • Re:Red lights (Score:5, Informative)

              by fireman sam (662213) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:24PM (#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.

              • by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:52PM (#26367479)

                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.

                I tried, this - but not realizing you weren't American, I ended up setting both the red and blue filters on fire, and then badly burning myself trying to switch the torch off.

                But is it my fault? I think not - you are the one named fireman sam, so I would have thought you'd have been a bit more responsible!

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

            by Rei (128717) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:24PM (#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.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by iknowcss (937215)
            I think you're both sort of right. The photo paper is insensitive to the red light because the photons in red light carry less energy per photon and can't alter the chemical structure of the crystal halides in the emulsion. I think, at least. Photo + chem + physics = my reasoning
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SirLurksAlot (1169039)

      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

    • Cost of energy (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:26PM (#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:Cost of energy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Arthur Grumbine (1086397) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:12PM (#26366631) Journal

        Towns will question why they are spending so much on lighting and cut back...Similarly, I think people will curb their habits of trying to light entire cities at night.

        And this curbing of their habits will come to an abrupt halt once someone is mugged/assaulted/raped on a normally safe - but slightly darker - street, and the think-of-the-children rallying cry is raised.

        The bottom line is that lighting in heavily populated areas does increase safety, by discouraging those who would use the cover of darkness for their crimes. The couple dollars a night it takes to light a mile of street is well worth the cost to those living on, or walking at night on, those streets.

        "It's better to light a candle, than curse the darkness."
        -Eleanor Roosevelt

        • Re:Cost of energy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:32PM (#26366843) Homepage Journal

          Towns will question why they are spending so much on lighting and cut back...Similarly, I think people will curb their habits of trying to light entire cities at night.

          And this curbing of their habits will come to an abrupt halt once someone is mugged/assaulted/raped on a normally safe - but slightly darker - street, and the think-of-the-children rallying cry is raised. The bottom line is that lighting in heavily populated areas does increase safety, by discouraging those who would use the cover of darkness for their crimes. The couple dollars a night it takes to light a mile of street is well worth the cost to those living on, or walking at night on, those streets.

          I am not sure I agree, Public lighting increases the contrast between light and shadow. And shadowed areas are still there.

        • by pizzach (1011925)

          The bottom line is that lighting in heavily populated areas does increase safety, by discouraging those who would use the cover of darkness for their crimes. The couple dollars a night it takes to light a mile of street is well worth the cost to those living on, or walking at night on, those streets.

          If crime was that much of a worry, they would probably be installing blue light. [softpedia.com] In energy conscious Japan, in the area where I was living they were doing exactly that. I just can't see them doing that in the US of A.

          Now some people have been recommending red lights. I can only wonder what effect that would have on crime (if any.) I would think that blue light would probably be better than while light for star watching, but not as good as red.

        • Re:Cost of energy (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @10:28PM (#26367271)

          Your comment uses something that he never said (slightly darker), to base your whole argumentation off of it.

          The point of this whole thread was, that you can reduce light pollution without reducing brightness on the street at all.
          in fact, mirroring the light back to the ground instead of losing it to the sky, will make for more efficient lights. So just installing mirrors will brighten the streets!
          Installing lamps that are darker by the same amount, that they gain by reflecting everything to the streets, will make them exactly as bright as the old lights, while saving energy.

          That's why some grand-parent post called it a win-win.
          But you could not afford not to ignore that, could you? Or else your whole argumentation, and with that, your whole point of view, would collapse like a house of cards. And that you just could not accept.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Rei (128717)

          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 Lig

      • As the cost of energy rises in the medium future, I think this will sort itself out.

        Using LEDs may help, because they are much more directional and emit light on narrow bands.

      • by Eil (82413)

        I agree with you, but you misunderstand two things:

        1) We live in a society where the mentality of security and safety greatly overrides that of efficiency and scientific endeavour.

        2) If you've see a city from the air at night, you'd notice that the vast majority of the Orange Hue comes from city streetlights and businesses (large empty parking lots, mostly). Residential lighting is either too dim or too sparse to make nearly as much difference when it comes to lighting up the sky.

        The best tact to counter li

    • by Chabo (880571)
      When I worked at a summer camp a few years ago, all of the staff carried flashlights, but rarely used them, because they were able to walk the trails at night with nothing but ambient light from the sky, even on the darker nights where there was cloud cover and a new moon. About the only time they would get used is when walking with the campers, as a courtesy.

      I use Surefire flashlights now, but at the time I carried a Mini-Maglite, with the regular incandescent bulb. I put a pair of AAs in there at the be
      • When I worked at a summer camp a few years ago, all of the staff carried flashlights, but rarely used them, because they were able to walk the trails at night with nothing but ambient light from the sky

        Near a city, thats easy to do ;)

        In the Mallee [wikipedia.org] I have been out on nights where Venus was almost too bright to look at, and distant towns could be seen by their halos.

    • by coryking (104614) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:31PM (#26366825) Homepage Journal

      My annoyance with any and all of you who are reading this and use any kind of bright hurricane light while camping. You ruin my night vision. You dont need your stupid light you fool. Grrrr.

      Even on the darkest of nights, you dont need any light to find your way around in the dark. Give yourself a couple minutes to adjust and you will do fine. If you really need light, get a maglite and some blue gels for it. Using a blue gel will let you turn on the light for a second or two while you check for the boogie man, and when you turn it off you'll have most of your night vision back right away.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lysergic.acid (845423)

      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 pleas

  • using pretty art to highlight "pollution" seems incongruous. shouldn't it be more intriguing [amazon.com] and a little repulsive [edwardburtynsky.com]?

  • by Bragador (1036480) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @07:44PM (#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 @07:48PM (#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.

    • by dave420 (699308)
      I was lucky enough to be in northern Cyprus when the power for almost the entire country went out. After a few minutes the black sky turned almost completely white. I'd give an awful lot to see that again.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by conureman (748753)

        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.

  • 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 l
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bunratty (545641)
      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%.
      • by actionbastard (1206160) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @11:56PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      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.

  • Go where it's dark (Score:4, Interesting)

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

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

    by FrankSchwab (675585) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:00PM (#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.

  • sprawl (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:00PM (#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?

    • by geekoid (135745)

      So they can have their big house, duh.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nethead (1563)

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jafafa Hots (580169)

        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 wa

        • by Qzukk (229616)

          Suddenly there's a "for sale" sign out front. I wonder what happened

          So buy it (you can probably get it cheap) and tear it down. Break up the slab or fill the basement and nature will fix the rest in a few years. If you were there before the neighborhood, you shouldn't have any lawn or deed restrictions to worry about.

          • Just buy it, put a covenant on it, and sell it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Stiletto (12066)

            So buy it

            It's unfortunate that so often our answer to an injustice against someone is that the victim should fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars if he wants it rectified.

        • by sribe (304414)

          Well, hey, at least nobody will need to build any more houses near you for a while.

      • by mbone (558574)

        I have a feeling that a lot of those estates will be dark or at least most of the lights busted and unrepaired.

        If you go to many of the DC suburbs, you can see this now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mbone (558574)

      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.

    • Seems to me you should've looked into owning the woods and other pieces of land you loved so much.

      People need places to live.
      Ask them to turn down the lights if it bothers you that much.

      • People need places to live? True. Though the population in this area is dropping, and has been dropping for over 50 years... and there are over 26 THOUSAND vacant homes in the nearby city, and everyone is complaining that the young leave, and people say things like "last one out, turn off the lights..." and the inner and outer-ring suburbs are being abandoned as people move into the sprawl in what was once rural and farming land. So, at least here it's not "people need some place to live," so much as it's p

  • Flagstaff (Score:5, Informative)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:12PM (#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 tyroneking (258793) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:18PM (#26366025)

    ... as a knife wielding teenage gang member I welcome any dark sky initiative - and I can assure you that all my victims will be seeing stars when I've finished with them (shortly before they die in a pool of their own blood ...)
    At last, the needs of amateur astrologers, penny pinching local councils, and muggers finally coincide! Happy days!

  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:18PM (#26366029)

    Or is this a different Illuminati Project ?

  • The name game (Score:5, Insightful)

    by westlake (615356) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @08:22PM (#26366083)
    Project Illuminati is a Flickr project by James Cann

    Is it something in his genes that compels a Geek to give a worthwhile project a name that carries a lot of excess baggage?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Klootzak (824076)

      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.

  • Earthmate? What's an Earthmate? Is that like an Earth girl posing in the Proxima Centauri edition of Playboy?
  • Terrible Photos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nullchar (446050) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:04PM (#26366569)

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

  • by dkarma (985926) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:15PM (#26366663)
    railing against light pollution by taking pictures showing how beautiful it is... kind of like raising diabetes awareness by building a giant sugar sculpture.
  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Wednesday January 07, 2009 @09:54PM (#26367029)

    like this one taken on the night of the 2003 blackout, and on the following night
    http://www.skynewsmagazine.com/pow/pow94.jpg [skynewsmagazine.com]

  • I've been tooling around with the idea of pitching a night sky proposal to the mayor and city council here... I've got some connections, and could at least get listened to. I've been doing a lot of planning based on the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance's Night Sky Program [nmheritage.org]... It looks like I've got some additional resources to go over now, and a great lead-in to it all.

    I fondly remember seeing flashes of the aurora from my childhood home. If I was to go there now and look to the north, all I'd

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