Sky and Telescope article
Posted 24 June 2022 - 02:07 AM
I read this article when I received my copy of S&T. I am a proponent of controlling our night lighting. Yes! We need lighting for safety and other reasons, so I am not militantly opposed to lights at night. I live in a community where they REQUIRE is to have our outside lights on at night - we get fined by the HOA if we don't. they have 'outlawed' the use of motion-sensing light activation, too. So, I have replaced my outside lights with low-power, 'warm' colored (they look a little yellow, as opposed to blast white, or worse yet, piercing bluish) bulbs. I think they are 10 watt (equivalent) bulbs. Absolutely, they are (by far) the dimmest lights in the neighborhood, but even though they dictate seemingly everything else about the lighting, they do not dictate the brightness required. It is just my little protest to the whole thing. As far as going to HOA meetings and lauding the advantages of low-light or warm-light or directed-light or anything else, they simply don't want to hear it. I appear to be the only astronomer out of 135 units of this neighborhood, and no one else cares about whether they can see the stars or not. "That's what the parks are for on the dark side of town." If we were to vote on any of the recommendations in this article in my community, I can virtually GUARANTEE the votes would be 134-1. In defense of the don't-want-to-hear-about-less-lighting people in my community, we do live in a large suburb and there is plenty of crime all around us. Now that Ring doorbells (and the like) are more common, we are constantly getting warnings about this person or that person who was caught on camera checking doors around the neighborhood.
One thing in the article has shed some light (pardon the pun) on a subject for me has to do with the satellite light. Many people here have written about how detrimental satellite trails are for our hobby. My take on the subject was that with our picture processing software that we all use, satellite trails are really nothing to worry too much about. The software will eliminate the trails every bit as easily as it eliminates stray light from dust motes or as easily as it eliminates hot pixels, etc. It never occurred to me that satellites, as a population, will have a 'background light'. And, of course, it goes beyond the 'traditional' satellites, and takes into account debris, too. Over time, we will simply end up with many more particles in orbit, from lost nuts and bolts, to paint chips and (God forbid) 'vaporized' satellites caused by collisions, and all of this will contribute to the sky's background light. Satellites are bright (relatively) but discreet points, whereas 'vaporized' satellites or other similarly small debris are contributing to the orbital 'cloud' with each tiny speck (billions upon billions of them) reflecting light. So.... yes, we can digitally remove satellite trails, easy-peasy, but the overall brightening of the sky due to the tinier stuff is problematic for our hobby.
Edited by Sleep Deprived, 24 June 2022 - 02:08 AM.
Posted 24 June 2022 - 09:56 AM
........ I live in a community where they REQUIRE is to have our outside lights on at night - we get fined by the HOA if we don't. they have 'outlawed' the use of motion-sensing light activation, too. .......
There are no streetlights in the community? What kind of lighting is required on your home? Simple over-door light, or some sort of massive wall-pack set-up?
It would seem there's still room to control LP here - with shielding requirements (Why light-up the sky when it's the front steps we want lit?) - limits on how bright/dim the lights should be (remember that glair actually impedes seeing the uninvited) - color (sleep, health, wildlife impacts). I would not mention 'astronomy' or 'stars' so much as health and birds as the reason - plus reducing cost to the min required, while saving resources. The cost of all that lighting is only going up, and electricity resources are limited. Security cameras and police might be a better solution than massive lighting.
I do have to say I don't understand "the HOA concept" -- my neighbors are bears and moose.
Edited by George N, 24 June 2022 - 10:03 AM.
Posted 25 June 2022 - 07:09 AM
- Michael Covington likes this
Posted 25 June 2022 - 01:24 PM
Sleep Deprived was saying
"we do live in a large suburb and there is plenty of crime all around us. Now that Ring doorbells (and the like) are more common, we are constantly getting warnings about this person or that person who was caught on camera checking doors around the neighborhood."
Gosh... I thought bad guys skulked around in the dark, and were afraid of light...
Posted 25 June 2022 - 02:07 PM
Point out the cost of wasted lighting and that artificial light at night is classed as a potential carcinogen like passive smoking. Point out that low power and shielding and sensors keep costs down for all and have no impact on there being light where and when needed. Seems that your people are scared of demons who don’t trip motion/thermal sensors.
But they DO trip motion sensors. This isn't clinical paranoia. It is documented reality. So, like I said, they want the lighting BRIGHTER. Many here, including me, sleep with dark curtains over the windows, so exposure to potentially cancer-causing ambient light at night is already reduced. These people aren't too worried about POTENTIAL carcinogens when documented carcinogens are all around us - if it is truly carcinogenic, then it should be relatively easy to document that. In the meantime, I am going to be more worried about eating tuna, clearing my basement of radon and asbestos, and making sure I am not working in direct sunlight between 11AM and 1PM.
The safety aspect of lighting is also apparent in automobile lighting. Modern headlights have gotten more peircing - whiter/bluer in color, and, seemingly, brighter. Also, automakers have made little effort to keep their beams 'down' - their overall cone may be smaller, but nothing has been done (other than the esthetic design of some cars sheetmetal around the headlights) to prevent light from being thrown upwards where it does the driver little good. The newer bulbs are more efficient, yet the technology makes them bluer. In this case, efficiency means the bulbs can be made to create a bit MORE light, but still cost less to make that light. I can't tell you how many times I have been 'blinded' by an oncoming car, flashed my brights to have them turn off their highbeams, only to have them flash back at me EVEN BRIGHTER than what they already had. People's concerns for safety are driving these changes. The same concern (and solution, frankly) holds for my neighbors and the local community's area lighting.
The costs of new fixtures (including the labor on the streetlights) far exceeds the amount of money saved on the already energy efficient bulbs being used. Today (I kid you not), I replaced a burned out bulb - new bulb used 6 watts and old bulb used 8. Considering the TV inside is ALWAYS using 5 W and the oven and microwave and stereo and all the clocks, too, the idea of saving a couple of watts for a half day is quite meaningless. MAYBE some could be persuaded to switch to a lower wattage bulb when replacing a burned out bulb, but not really before then. AND the modern bulbs are lasting many years. The efficiency of modern lighting, coupled with increasing costs of the hardware, actually HURTS the cause being touted here, from a monetary POV. Many communities, including mine, have fairly specific fixture types required for esthetic reasons. Changing the design criteria to something more LP-friendly would require everybody to change all their fixtures and the blowback from the community to those requiring the changes makes that virtually impossible. Again, design criteria - the powers-that-be won't stand for the change to happen over a timescale that the people paying for it could bear. There are too many other expenses that are unavoidable to have to worry about paying for something that will throw less light up in the sky, the fix of which will have a return on expense exceeding the average length of stay in the community.
Your HOA may be different and may make these changes bearable to those in your community. And if you aren't saddled with an HOA and if you live in a relatively safe neighborhood, well, I am envious. Sure, I could move into a house without an HOA and MY night experience would be better, but that doesn't solve the problem that was left behind. As long as most people have nothing more than a passing interest in astronomy, criminals break into houses, and, I suppose, the POTENTIALITY of LP being carcinogenic isn't proven to be actuality, most people have no interest in a marginally darker sky. Marginal to the point of probably not noticeable to the average person looking up 10 times a year. I cannot help but be a cynic.
The paper cited, though, is a great start to shedding light (sorry...) on the subject.
PS: sorry for the tome.
Posted 27 June 2022 - 09:46 PM
Key ideas to pitch:
- Shielding helps you see things. The goal is (I hope) not to show off the light bulbs, but to enable people to see what's on the ground.
- Light helps burglars find their way in.
- Jon Isaacs and bunyon like this