Local astronomer Jeff Hoffmeister has volunteered to send us a few pieces when there is something truly unique and remarkable to observe in the night sky. So bundle up and gaze into the stars with the Stellar Junkie.
We all think about the effects of air pollution and water pollution but we seldom think of light pollution and its effects on our environment. It is estimated that at least one third of all light produced in the United States is wasted. This is at an annual cost of 30 million barrels of oil and 8.2 metric tons of coal, which equates to $2 billion dollars a year. That amount of oil alone puts 14.1 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
Light pollution is caused by excessive use of lighting which strays beyond its intended target or valued area. We have all seen city or neighborhood lighting that seems to want to bring daylight to the night.
This not only affects our sleeping habits but also affects nocturnal animals who can be confused as to whether it is day or night. Many lights shine not just downward, but upward and outward. You may think this is good, right? But as shown below, too much light can actually be harmful and the glare can hide things or people you need to see!
As an amateur astronomer, I also value the night sky. In cities, one can only see about 6 stars, in the suburbs, 200 to 300, and in the countryside about 2,000. My fellow astronomers and I are having more and more difficulty finding skies that are dark enough for us to view the amazing objects we can see with our telescopes.
To many, this may seem just a hobby, but there are many amateur astronomers helping professional astronomers in different ventures such as the search for Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs). In fact, a vast number of NEAs are found by amateur astronomers! For us, the effect of light pollution is devastating. As you can see, even the great Orion can be washed out!
Below is a diagram of the best types of lighting for your home. When getting new lighting, please consider getting downward facing lights and remember that, even for a flag pole, there are lights that can be bought to face downward from the top of the pole.
Consider that you, as one person, can make a difference. Please spread the word and help protect our night sky!