Thursday, June 30, 2011

Light Pollution …

When was the last time you looked up in a completely dark location and saw the staggering beauty of the Milky Way slashing its way across the night sky?

A lot of people cannot remember the last time that they really looked closely at the sky from a dark location. Because you have to go a long way from any major city and then stop the car, get out and just look for this to really happen.

That’s pretty depressing as we are meant to have our rhythms vary from day to night and light to dark. Not day to night and light to a little less light … sheesh.

I am a dilettante when it comes to things astronomical … I never really got into it as a kid and I have developed the techie’s nerdy interest in something the requires a cool piece of equipment to do properly. I do love to look at images of the moon, planets and deep sky objects like nebulae and star clusters and so on. These really float my boat. And even the lesser images shot from back yards please me no end.

My own recent Saturn image lit a real fire in me to consider exploring this a bit further. We’ll see about that, but I’d like to share a rather amusing video that was posted to YouTube as a possible warning to the human race. We have lost our sense of place in the Universe because most of us cannot look up and see the vastness of all things … instead, there is an artificially created ceiling of grey caused by light pollution.

What many might not know is that it is actually possible to start changing this even within city boundaries. The International Dark Sky Association is campaigning world-wide for improved lighting that does not blast light sideways or upwards. The amount of light we bleed upwards into the sky amounts to billions of dollars of wasted energy every year. Who could possibly have thought that was a good idea?

The Ottawa Citizen reported three days ago that July 2nd will see an entire street go dark, probably for the first time since the great blackout of the east of a few years ago. The organizers had to pay $1200 to the city for the people to accomplish the task, but they went ahead anyway. Julian Avenue is only a block long, but the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada plans to hold a star party that night to celebrate the improved visibility of the sky. The article reads as if this is actually going to persist for a month, which sounds pretty amazing if I read that right.

I have a street lamp slashing across my back yard that really interferes with any attempt I make to shoot images to the north and east. Today I sent an email to the person in charge of street lighting in Ottawa, asking him if there is a way in which I can shield my yard from the excess light of this lamp. We’ll see where that goes …

Support the Dark Sky Association … they are doing a great thing by trying to give us back the beauty of the night sky.

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