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I LOVE my new streetlight! Really, I DO!

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#1 FirstSight


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Posted 20 May 2013 - 12:20 PM

This is a one-off sort of story of a potential street-light tragedy with an unexpected fairy-tale lucky-ducky happy ending. Although it's obvious from the story how others could go about attempting to achieve a similar lucky result, the odds of success are far too low for this tale to add much useful information to the light-pollution forum beyond what's already well-known about dealing with problematic streetlights. And so I posted this one-off tale here instead.

TO START, HERE'S A PICTURE OF THE "BEFORE" SITUATION. That's my house at Sunset Beach, NC, and the upper deck of the house is my astronomy observing deck. Right smack at the corner of my driveway is what may at first seem like a streetlight perfectly sited and designed to be a PITA annoyance, complete with protruding glare-spewing pyramid lens. HOW-EVER WHEN the streetlight was originally installed in 1995 just weeks after we bought the house, the town was very prompt in responding to my request to install back-shielding on the side toward my house. Which worked OK to shield over 90% of the light's visible glare, but imperfectly since there was always some leakage around the edge of the shield visible from my observing deck. This visible leakage was an annoyance I would have much preferred to be without, but such a vast improvement over the unshielded light that my observing (and front porch-sitting) situation was tolerably livable all these years. The bulb was replaced about three years ago when it started frequently flickering out, but they reinstalled the shielding when they "fixed" it, maintaining the status quo over the last 17 years.

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#2 FirstSight


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Posted 20 May 2013 - 12:35 PM

When I was down in mid-January, I noticed the streetlight was again flickering on and off, spending significantly more time "off" entirely than "on". Fine with me, but I knew it was just a matter of time before the city would "fix" the light. SO WHEN I RETURNED IN EARLY APRIL the city had indeed "fixed" the light...but TO MY HORROR, they did NOT reinstall the shielding! My fear was that the person in charge of maintenance had concluded that the shielding was connected to causing the light to become unacceptably susceptible to early failure (after all, they could not have failed to notice the shielding when they begun the "repair"). So, I had a lump in my throat when I got ready to call the city to request that the shielding be restored to the light, summoning my most cheerfully polite demeanor for the lady answering the phone. I knew if my request failed, I'd need to rig up some sort of removable light-shield across the front to make the upper deck tolerably usable for observing, and it would be a PITA to simply enjoy sitting on my front porches at night, to say nothing of having to keep the blinds on the windows of the front bedrooms sealed tight shut to make sleeping tolerable.

#3 FirstSight


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Posted 20 May 2013 - 12:55 PM

I called first thing in the morning when city offices opened. The lady who answered said she'd dispatch someone that very morning to come out! And so, by 11 am a cheerful utility guy about 60yo came to my house in a truck with a cherry-picker crane mounted in back. He sympathetically acknowledged the nature of my problem, and said he'd forgotten to bring tinfoil to craft the shield out of, did I have some? WHY OF COURSE I did! I scurried to my kitchen, and cut a large piece off the extra-wide roll we keep for cooking Thanksgiving turkeys, and handed it to him, and he immediately got up in the cherry-picker and fashioned probably the best-configured shield I've had so far. Well, good but this wouldn't be much of a fairy-tale ending if that was all there was to it, would it?

I then said to him: "I've noticed there's a handful of streetlight fixtures scattered over the island which are flat-bottom rather than pyramid, and don't need shielding. Would it be possible to get one of those installed here, and if so, what would be involved? What extra costs might I need to pay to have the changeover to the flat-style accelerated rather than have to possibly wait years for a regular replacement cycle?

He smiled, and replied: "well I'M the one in charge of deciding when it's the appropriate time to change out a fixture for the new flat style. I can come back and have it done for you by the next time you come down! No charge. I gratefully said "why thank you, that would be genuinely appreciated!" I was of course on the edge of either fainting or starting a ridiculous happy-feet dance, but I fortunately restrained myself, and simply engaged the nice man in some pleasant general conversation.

And so, here I am "next time down" in mid-May now. And here's my new streetlight (though the beneficial effect of the new streetlight will be far more apparent with the next picture than this one).

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#4 FirstSight


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Posted 20 May 2013 - 01:01 PM

NOW, FOR THE FAIRY-TALE ENDING! Here's the night view from my observing deck. Notice that the *only* light visible from the streetlight is that reflected off the street and my neighbor's gravel driveway. Even from my lower-level porches the amount of visible light is quite noticeably less than it was with the old "back-shielded" streetlight.

YEE-HAW! Of course, it's been too cloudy for much observing so far this trip, but I did sneak in a short session with my NP-101, and WOW! What a lucky dog I am. Fortunately, I'll be down long enough this time (two more weeks at least) to out-wait the clouds (I'm not even minding too much that the moon will be relatively fuller-phase for most of that time).

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#5 bumm



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Posted 20 May 2013 - 02:50 PM

VERY NICE! Congratulations! They put new streetlights on the highway through my dinky rural town a few years ago, and they somehow chose to use well shielded ones... Made me happy. :) Unfortunately, nearby streets by my house still use HORRIBLE ones. Also, a nearby church has some kind of a sodium vapor flood light that spews out over the parking lot towards my house all night every night... I've come to call it "****'s blowtorch." I've made friendly conversation with some people who might help, but so far, no changes...

#6 Mike B

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 03:54 PM

A wonderful & truly inspirational story!
:bow: :woot: :waytogo:

Congratulations on this success!
May we all make similar progress in our respective neighborhoods. :ubetcha:

#7 REC



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Posted 20 May 2013 - 04:40 PM

Great story and what is your address.....LOL

#8 wirenut



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Posted 20 May 2013 - 04:49 PM

I wasn't expecting a happy ending when the story involves streetlights and astronomy. I'm glad it worked out so well for you. wish my town was so helpful.

#9 GeneT


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Posted 20 May 2013 - 04:58 PM

You handled this very well and got the desired result. Congratulations!

#10 panhard


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Posted 20 May 2013 - 05:51 PM

Thats an amazing journey. Glad to hear it worked out for you.

#11 star drop

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 06:13 PM

Congratulations, Chris!

#12 David Castillo

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 07:59 PM

Buy yourself a lotto ticket! You are so lucky. I lived on a corner with a streetlight that wasn't shielded and the city wouldn't do anything about it. For 6 years I had to rig shields up and had only a 40 degree light free observation "window" that worked OK, but I really had to time my observing if I wanted to observe a specific object. Congratulations and enjoy the sights, Chris.

#13 cuivienor


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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:06 PM

Send this to IDA... This is really a great improvement. I cringe and cringe and cringe at the millions of unshielded streetlight that litter my street and manage to bother me even from my 6th floor roof balcony.

I wonder what would happen if I were to start installing handmade shield on those lights, ninja-style, at night... :)


#14 City Kid

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Posted 20 May 2013 - 09:28 PM

This might be the first story I've read about an observing spot changing for the better. Lucky you!!

#15 StrangeDejavu


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Posted 20 May 2013 - 10:23 PM

Nice ending Chris, I wish I could say the same for my backyard. Unfortunately, we have 3 high-pressure sodium lights that are completely unshielded around my house. There's 1 facing the South skies, 1 in the West and 1 in the East, forming a triangle and i'm in the center of it with my scope. These are the only way i've been able to tone down the stray light (background light is the culprit, foreground light is my own light). They work well, i've seen mag 8 on good nights thanks to them. No solution like you received but hey, it's the next best thing I suppose. :p

#16 Qwickdraw


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Posted 21 May 2013 - 05:45 AM

I got lucky I guess. My street light right (right in my yard) has a disconnect behind my house.

#17 Some call me Tim

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Posted 21 May 2013 - 11:00 AM

That upper deck looks like a fantastic spot for viewing -- over the treetops and everything.

#18 Panotaker


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Posted 22 May 2013 - 07:04 AM

I have one of those flat bottom street lights next door to my house. Unfortunately, I do my observing from my drive way and the light shines right on it. When the light finally burnt out and they came to replace it, I asked the guy if he could tilt the head about 15 degrees so it wouldn't shine on my driveway. The light is still on so my neighbors are happy, my driveway is a lot darker, and no one noticed that the light is a little crooked.

#19 Herr Ointment

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Posted 22 May 2013 - 05:01 PM

Great story and one amazing light fixture. There is hope!

#20 av8or


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Posted 22 May 2013 - 09:13 PM

Awesome story and thank you for sharing!!

#21 JIMZ7


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Posted 23 May 2013 - 01:03 PM

I have a street light across the street maybe 80 feet away that doesn't give enough light to reach the ground. I'm not in any hurry telling the city, for its been like that for over 2 years. I love my old streetlight!


#22 cloud_cover


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Posted 24 May 2013 - 01:23 AM

Nice house! :)

#23 StarStuff1



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Posted 24 May 2013 - 04:45 AM

We just spent a week at Sunset Beach. Our second visit. Nice place! The only optic I took was an 8x42 bino and observing from the top deck was fun. Glad your streetlight situation turned out so good.

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