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Space United States

Idaho Wants To Establish America's First 'Dark Sky Preserve' (idahostatesman.com) 136

schwit1 shares a story from the AP: Tourists heading to central Idaho will be in the dark if local officials get their way. The first International Dark Sky Reserve in the United States would fill a chunk of the state's sparsely populated region that contains night skies so pristine that interstellar dust clouds are visible in the Milky Way... Supporters say excess artificial light causes sleeping problems for people and disrupts nocturnal wildlife and that a dark sky can solve those problems, boost home values and draw tourists. Opposition to dark sky measures elsewhere in the U.S. have come from the outdoor advertising industry and those against additional government regulations.

Researchers say 80 percent of North Americans live in areas where light pollution blots out the night sky. Central Idaho contains one of the few places in the contiguous United States large enough and dark enough to attain reserve status, Barentine said. Only 11 such reserves exist in the world... The proposed Idaho reserve is mainly land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and contains the wilderness of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area... Leaders in the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley, the tiny mountain town of Stanley, other local and federal officials, and a conservation group have been working for several years to apply this fall to designate 1,400 square miles (3,600 square kilometers) as a reserve. A final decision by the association would come about 10 weeks after the application is submitted.

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Idaho Wants To Establish America's First 'Dark Sky Preserve'

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  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday September 17, 2017 @04:44PM (#55215411) Homepage Journal

    Clearly the government doesn't want dark skies. It'd make it too easy to spot the UFOs on their way to & from Area 21.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I thought they were from area 51?

      Oh....

      Clever black ops guys...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds good.

  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Sunday September 17, 2017 @04:51PM (#55215437) Journal
    I thought the main opposition from dark sky projects usually came from those arguing that street lights reduce crime? A lack of advertising after dark is a good reason for dark sky preserves plus it also reduces energy use.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by schwit1 ( 797399 )
      Idaho has its own way of minimizing crime - shoot back. Residents 21 years of age, not disqualified from having a permit, may carry a concealed firearm statewide without a permit.
      • Might have something to do with the high age adjusted suicide rate.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        So it's pitch black. And everyone's walking around with unlicensed firearms...

      • "Informative" bullshit..... https://www.vice.com/en_us/art... [vice.com]
      • Idaho has its own way of minimizing crime - shoot back.

        ...which unfortunately makes the argument for street lights even stronger because if you are going to do that I expect most people would like you to be able to see what you are shooting at instead of firing a gun randomly in the dark.

      • Idaho has its own way of minimizing crime - shoot back.

        Idaho has a much more effective strategy for minimizing crime - reducing the number of human beings there. Having a little under 8 people per sq.km, you'd be able to see your neighbours (unless they're behind a tree), and might just be able to hit one with a sniper rifle (358m, if you do the sums - not a competition-winning shot, but you need to be at least competent.)

    • by Dayze!Confused ( 717774 ) <slashdot.org@oh y o n g h a o.com> on Sunday September 17, 2017 @07:18PM (#55216063) Homepage Journal
      I tried in vain for years to convince my local HOA of this, they would have none of it. Despite our Alley way being a private street, H shaped with no through traffic, they still insisted that we must have our alley light on. It was obvious that none of my neighbors believed it was necessary as most of those 3 years 7 out of 10 houses on our little alley had dead bulbs, and mine was turned off on principle, making 8 out of 10 houses without alley lights. About once a year the management company would come out and write up tickets for all of us, then never come back and check. How the houses were built they all had ambient light sensors to automatically turn the alley light on. I had applied to change this from an ambient light sensor to a timer where I could set it to turn off at a decent hour, but was denied. One of the chairs of the committee would always spread the false safety concern on the Facebook group, and I'd always reply with the studies that shows that more light does not correlate to less crime, to which he would be dismissive.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        The most effective thing would probably be a motion sensor light. It's great against criminals, the sudden illumination attracts attention as people wonder what triggered it. At the same time it reduces light pollution.

      • I tried in vain for years to convince my local HOA of this, they would have none of it. Despite our Alley way being a private street, H shaped with no through traffic, they still insisted that we must have our alley light on. It was obvious that none of my neighbors believed it was necessary ... One of the chairs of the committee would always spread the false safety concern on the Facebook group, and I'd always reply with the studies that shows that more light does not correlate to less crime, to which he would be dismissive.

        Unfortunately, this kind of story is typical. We have an interesting situation in the USA with respect to HOAs. It is obvious to any competent thinker that HOAs - in practice - violate MANY fundamental rights arising under the 9th and 10th Amendments.

        This in turn means that contract and property law is being used as a mechanism is infringe fundamental rights "under the colour of law", which has been criminal offence under US federal law since the post-Civil War reconstruction era.

        In effect, by writing the

    • The thing is, though that in this case you can have your cake, and eat it too. It's Entirely possible to illuminate an area while confining the light to produce little to no sky glow. In a lot of these situations the lighting is actually far more effective, producing dramatically less glare, more even illumination, and a reduction in shadowed areas.

      The problem is that it takes actual thought, design, and quality fixtures to implement.

    • street lights reduce crime ? thats a good one ... i actually havent heard that one before ... here in hickville there's streets where about 50 people pass by day at best and zero at night unless i go for a walk with my cat ... you used to see a little bit of stars there then they put a street light every 10 meter ... probably to euh "reduce crime" because all of the rapists hiding in the ditches and the corn waiting for no one to come by so now the street lights are on all night with no one there to be save
  • A good thing I think (Score:5, Informative)

    by solanum ( 80810 ) on Sunday September 17, 2017 @04:51PM (#55215439)

    Here in South Australia, the Astronomy Society of South Australia is also involved in this process, applying to the International Darksky Association for formal accreditation of the Mid-Murray region ( http://www.rivermurraydarkskyr... [rivermurra...eserve.org] ), a very sparsely populated region with significant areas of national park. I'd be interested to know know the differences in local legislation/recognition required between the US and South Australia. I'm not involved myself, but from what I've heard the local council here are very supportive.

    • Of course it's sparsely populated. There's no water.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Realistically speaking most of Australia fits the bill for a dark-sky preserve. The population density outside of urban areas is very low.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have never seen the night sky here. It's just an orange glow.

    • by peppepz ( 1311345 ) on Sunday September 17, 2017 @05:20PM (#55215553)
      I also live in Europe, and the first time I saw the night sky the way our ancestors had seen it for millions of years wasn't before I got 20-something years old. I happened to spend the night on a small island with little artificial lighting; for some reason I threw a random look to the sky, and I saw an unexpected spectacle that left me so amazed that I wouldn't look back down for minutes. I discovered that the Milky Way was something that one could actually see in the sky, in its immense size, and not only in pictures on a book. It was quite a revelation, I couldn't believe that such a sight had been denied to me for a lifetime, without me - or anybody near me - ever knowing.
      • Similar thing for me, except it was in North Wales on an outdoor pursuits course. We must have found, by pure chance, a place where any light from roads or villages was masked by the mountainous terrain and there was no cloud either.

        We sat gawping at it all for about an hour in more or less silence. And no, we hadn't been eating any strange plants or fungi.

        • It's even better with strange plants and fungi.

          One of the coolest thing I ever saw was a meteor shower (Perseids IIRC) while I was deep in the Ozarks at the same time the lightning bugs, in their millions, were horny.

          I might have been consuming some fine Ozark mountain retardo weed, but it only made it better.

      • I was once on a transpacific flight which happened to be at night. Being a bit curious I opened the window cover and placed my jacket over my head and looked out towards the night sky. It was an amazing view. Some others saw me and copied the action, then vainly attempted to take a picture of the night sky not understanding that their iPhone wouldn't be capable of capturing that view. I've taken my wife out on one of the local astronomical society camping trips and she was amazed at the number of stars
      • There is nothing like the undiminished beauty of the night sky. Go find an open field somewhere and go stargazing, if you've never been. Learn the constellations if you have time, yes, but just seeing the entire vista, lying down and opening your eyes as wide as you can and consciously taking in visually as much as the sky as you can is amazing. It's criminal that so many kids never get to see that.

      • I was 19 or 20, a New York City kid. Went up to the Finger Lakes region of New York State for a family wedding. Went outside one night, noticed that the moon was so bright that I could read by it, looked up...

        no moon. It was the starlight that I could read by. Just. Blew. My. Mind.

  • Pushes buttons on a lot of people!

  • Why do we have to shine all that light into the sky?

    • Switch to sodium-vapor lamp and observatories can filter out the narrow notch of orange-yellow light it produces. Or use smart lamps that permit the scheduling of lowering of the level of street lights.

      With highways that are mandatory self-driving you could also eliminate street lights and headlights.

      • Switch to sodium-vapor lamp and observatories can filter out the narrow notch of orange-yellow light it produces.

        Doesn't help visual observation of the night sky. It's beauty is not only about measuring space with expensive science toys.

        • I assumed you packed up a telescope when you looked up, so put a filter on it. Orion sells a wide range of filters. And while they are not super cheap they are in the price range of a hobbyist, especially one that was willing to travel to Idaho.

          • A filter is only able to block light. The problem with blocking light is ... you are blocking light. So while it is able to increase contrast between the object and the background sky it doesn't actually make those objects any brighter, quite the opposite. A dark sky trumps filtering every time.

            Also for non-visual astronomy filtering doesn't help if your goal is true colour images. A UHC filter or similar light pollution reduction filter massively skews the colour spectrum. Personally I've taken to doing na

            • A filter is only able to block light.

              Yes, that's basically the definition of the word filter in every science.

              • Then it should be obvious why it is not an ideal solution.

                But it's not obvious. It amazing the number of times I've had to explain this to people in various contexts, including at astronomy conventions where people in general should know better.

      • Switch to sodium-vapor lamp and observatories can filter out the narrow notch of orange-yellow light it produces. Or use smart lamps that permit the scheduling of lowering of the level of street lights.

        Using both approaches would be of greater benefit. There is no reason at all to have light leaking skyward, it's both a waste of energy, and pollutes the night sky for ordinary people to observe.

        With highways that are mandatory self-driving you could also eliminate street lights and headlights.

        Most self driving systems rely on visual observations to stay in the lane. Tesla's stated goal is to be able to do full autonomy with only normal camera's and not the whole ladar gizmos that Google uses. Unless we start building other kind of track and location information into the roads it would be hard to make

        • Most self driving systems rely on visual observations to stay in the lane. Tesla's stated goal is to be able to do full autonomy with only normal camera's and not the whole ladar gizmos that Google uses. Unless we start building other kind of track and location information into the roads it would be hard to make sure that you stay on the road. Headlights should be sufficient for this, and streetlights not needed.

          It's my job actually. So you don't need a full spectrum of light for it to work. And if you've seen what training is like for night driving you'd realize how wrong you are about current computer vision systems. The systems are definitely designed to not need street lights, so there is the bigger half of the two down for astronomy.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In Altadena, north of Pasadena, California, there nicknamed "Christmas Tree Lane." It is just a street. For decades at Christmas tree lights have been hung from the trees in December, and across the street over the road. The usual street lights are turned off. Driving down the street with your lights turned off is--magical. Or fun. The low level lights, just your basic traditional incandescent X-mas outdoor bulbs (unless they've changed it recently) are more than enough to drive by on residential streets.
        Ge

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Sunday September 17, 2017 @05:19PM (#55215543)

    I'll offer that the few times I've been driving through the middle of frelling nowhere in the middle of a clear night, I've been awed by the number of stars visible and the scene above me. Stop, kill the lights, and stare up in wonder...

    • Real life is outside, not in any electrified box. Choose your poison; TV, laptop, smartphone. Great idea Idaho ! How can we help make this happen? Here in central Texas, the Milky Way has faded from view. When I talk to kids about the beauty of the night sky, their faces express disbelief and confusion of what this old man speaks. Our neighborhood street is illuminated well by lamps at each corner, but neighbors still leave their intensely bright drive way lights on all night. Unfortunately, most peo
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      It seems a shame that so many have had this birthright stolen from them for ...well...ugly looking street lights. Which don't even actually reduce crime (there is even evidence that they increase crime). It would be nice if once in a while, we could pick a night and turn the lights off so people can actually see the sky, and perhaps discover that the night isn't really all that scary.

    • by Rhys ( 96510 )

      Stop, kill the lights, wait for eyes to adjust, have the local sheriffs deputy stop to check out the car on the side of the road and totally blow your night vision...

      Didn't give me any trouble, other than the blown night vision. Admittedly I was pulled off on a county road in the middle of nowhere but I'd found a spot I could get fully off the road and my car is orange so anyone else with their lights on would have spotted us.

  • With LEDs, the challenges in outdoor lighting we faced years ago are fairly trivial to solve. There are a few code changes that are required (1 foot-candle/10 lux minimum exterior egress pathway lighting to the public right-of-way being the dumbest), and a little more regulation in a few areas to keep people from installing ineffective "glare bomb" wall mounted lights.

    Even lighting a billboard with zero uplight isn't that hard, and with a dark sky you use a hell of a lot less energy.

    • There's always going to be a bit of reflection upwards.
      • You can either internally illuminate with shaped refractors, or simply angle the billboard down 5-10 degrees and light from the top.

        You might end up with 2-3% uplight, but it beats the 60% that is typical with traditional designs.

    • With LEDs, the challenges in outdoor lighting we faced years ago are fairly trivial to solve.

      People will just over-light anyway because that's what they do and LEDs are a cheaper way of achieving this. The improved directionality isn't all that helpful because there's now more light hitting surfaces and so more reflecting off those surfaces and into to the atmosphere. Plus they're delivering white light and you can't filter this out as effectively with light pollution filters. Over the years I've been seeing orange low pressure sodium glows replaced with white glows from LEDs. The latter are worse.

  • The few times in my life that I've been in a truly dark place under a clear night sky have all been amazingly awe-inspiring.

  • We are talking about central Idaho. Hardly anyone lives there in the first place. Also, good luck getting cell phone service.

    Source: Me. I live in Idaho.

    • by Dayze!Confused ( 717774 ) <slashdot.org@oh y o n g h a o.com> on Sunday September 17, 2017 @07:32PM (#55216105) Homepage Journal
      That's sort of the point. First start by preserving the few areas that have truly dark skies, then we can work on better regulations and planning to undue much of the light pollution we have created. There isn't any night sky to preserve in Portland, OR, it would be like declaring Time Square a wildlife preserve. We do have wildlife preserves, and are building out green spaces in cities, sort of a similar idea. Start by preserving what you have and work on creating more.
  • and leave their porch lights on at night, and the dark sky reserve will be no more
  • Good! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drewsup ( 990717 ) on Monday September 18, 2017 @02:42AM (#55217275)

    I was stationed in Idaho in the 80's, on the way back from camping in the mountains we were traveling down a pitch dark dirt road for like 30 miles late at night, i looked up and told my friends to pull over , they were like why? We pulled over,shut off the lights and when our eyes finally adjusted, there was the milky way, and it was breathtaking! We all climbed on the hood and lay back on the windshield for an hour, just mesmerized by all the stars, best trip ever! You don't realize how much sky youre missing until you see it from a pitch dark location, this needs preserving!

    • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

      Ever look through a 1M telescope? An astronamer friend of mine built one from very precise mirrors. What I saw was just amazing. Galaxy after galaxy oriented different ways and different colors and it filled up the entire viewing area even though I was looking at a very small fraction of the sky. This was on a night that it was about 15F out. VERY clear sky. It can change your perspective on things.

      • I would *love* to have your friend for my friend. I once owned a 12" telescope, around 0.3m. Amazing, photons from a galaxy tens of millions of light years away end their journeys in my eyeball. (I thought about looking at 3C273, which IIRC is *billions* of light years away, but never did.)

        Psalm 19.

  • Chaco canyon is a dark sky park [nps.gov]. Or is a "preserve" something different? I was at Chaco last month, the ranger told me they even have a say in what new lighting is put up in the nearest towns.
  • You can already see the night sky in all its glory in almost 1/4 of the continental united states, which is managed by the BLM. You can literally drive into it, if you have a 4x4. Or in the dry season, anything with decent ground clearance. The amount of space with essentially zero lights in it is larger than the entire godforsaken state of Ohio.

    Light pollution is stupid, though. When I see a streetlight without a reflector I want to punch someone in the dick.

  • In a city. 1. SHADES that block all the "artificial" light. Fan running, blocks out any exterior sound. Never had a problem sleeping. In fact, I can get up in the morning, leaves, small tree branches scattered in the street, traffic lights not working. Get to work...did it rain last night? DID IT RAIN? That storm didn't wake you up? Nope.
  • To block out the night sky, to conceal the aliens floating around and visiting this planet. Plus, it makes it easier for the "Area 51" types to covertly spy on people.
  • not bad housing prices, for those of us who like dark skies...

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

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