Proposal to make Light Pollution a statutory nuisance

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JohnM
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Proposal to make Light Pollution a statutory nuisance

Post by JohnM »

The government have proposed adding light pollution to the list of items that are a statutory nuisance under the environment act 1990. The announcement was fairly low key but an article giving a summary can be found on at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jh ... wstop.html .

However the proposal exempts a large number of the worst polluters from complying. A full list can be seen on the Croydon Astronomical Society ‘Light Pollution’ page at http://www.croydonastro.org.uk/lights.htm which have been copied from a page deep in the Parliament web site.

The proposed exemptions were the subject of an article in the evening standard at http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/arti ... 20Standard .

While there are good reasons for lights required for operational reasons such as runway lights to be exempt that is not a good reason for the poorly controlled lighting in Airport car parks for instance to be exempt. It is interesting to note that if you look at a detailed map of the light pollution in West London the runways at Heathrow Airport stand out as lines of darkness !

Also Harbour Premises are exempt – however the British Standard for Street Lighting around Harbours already requires constraints on the street lights so they do not interfere with navigation

To get these proposals modified to exempt only the lighting that is absolutely necessary I suggest you write to your Local MP and let your feelings be known. You could also write to the Chair of the Parliamentary select committee for Science & Technology who review of Light Pollution and Astronomy is one of the drivers for the government to do something about light pollution.

The proposals are not perfect in that one has to prove that the light pollution is ‘ prejudicial to health or a nuisance but it is a start.

John Murrell
Engineer @ Work - Astronomer @ Play
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear al
This Light pollution chatline topic must feel very lonely. I thought the least I could do was to wish it a Happy New Year.
I keep my fingers crossed but unfortunately I do not expect any miracle cures in the foreseeable future.
I can only describe my perhaps rather pathetic concerns on this issue over the last fifteen years at best as being at best a futile rear-guard action.
Is the apparent lack of interest in this chatline topic significant?
From the very grumpy old codger Cliff
nealeh
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Post by nealeh »

Cliff wrote:Is the apparent lack of interest in this chatline topic significant?
I think you may be right about the significance of this particular forum. Those who are actively campaigning to reduce light pollution will already be participating in the Campaign for Dark Skies.

To add to JohnM's useful links readers may be interested in the actual House of Commons report
here.

From the introduction to that report:
1. In February 2003 we decided to conduct an inquiry to examine the effectiveness of measures taken to reduce the impact of light pollution on astronomy and to consider what further steps, if any, were required. The inquiry was announced on 4 February with the following terms of reference:
  • What has been the impact of light pollution on UK astronomy?
    Are current planning guidelines strong enough to protect against light pollution?
    Are planning guidelines being applied and enforced effectively?
    Is light measurable in such a way as to make legally enforceable regulatory controls feasible?
    Are further controls on the design of lighting necessary?

2. The purpose of the inquiry was to establish whether astronomy had been affected by light pollution to such a degree that appropriate legislative action needed to be taken by the Government. Our recommendations apply principally to the UK Government.
Cheers,
--
Neale
Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your children
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Nealeh
I very much aplaud the efforts of those astronomers and other people like JohnM. However, I find it very concerning that amateur astronomers in general seem to have relatively little concern about this important topic.
Unfortunately I think that light pollution is likely to never be never be a big issue because the authorities know they will meet little resistance from the astronomical community and of course we are relatively few in numbers anyway.
Ironically soon after I posted my previous message postboxpolitical leaflet arrived through. Who sent it does not matter because all major parties seem the same on these matters .
Semi quoting the leaflet:
More bobbies, Better Lighting, action on traffic........top uissues identified in ....residents survey.
"Police......more bobbies (needed).
Poor sstreet lighting is becoming a big issue. residents complain about the number of poorly lit areas, lights not workingand time taken for faulty lights to be repaired.
Every aspect of traffic.............".
So far as I am concerned that is mostly bad news. with the best will in the world light pollution is and will remain low on polititians agenda.
Yes we are few in number but even so too few amateur astronomers show any real interest in light pollution matters.
I am not an official light pollution rep myself (and for a variety of reasons not likely to be). I assume there are many other amateur astronomers like me. Even so over the years I have shown interest in attending various meetings about light pollution and I have felt saddened by the lack of interest in this important issue by apparently the vast majority of supposed amateur astronomers.
If the majority of us supposed amareur astronomers remain complacent (and I must admit I am guilty of complacency myself many times) then we really are doomed. And perhaps we deserve it!
Even so best wishes from the grumpy old codger Cliff
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Post by Richard McC »

Hi all,
I think that Cliff has hit the nail on the head.
It's not that we're not interested because we are, it's just that there aren't enough of us to get Councils to change their minds with regard to full cut off fixtures.
At the end of the day we have a HOBBY, (I've deliberately highlighted the word "hobby", because, whether amateur or professional, that's what the vast majority of people would say) that requires as much darkness as possible............."So what!" they'll say, "It doesn't matter that their faint little fuzzies are a bit harder to see.........it's hardly the end of the world.........Extra lights keep crime down...."
I think there was a documentary in Canada about light pollution and it was proven that FEWER lights brought a crime wave to a halt in little under 2 weeks; the reason.......It was so dark that the criminals had to carry torches to see where they were going and thus stood out like sore thumbs.
We live in a sad world where Governments and Councils would rather squanders £Billions on crud than think about what would benefit the whole population. All those people who have been to a truly 'dark site' will know what I'm talking about. If you were to take your next door neighbour out into the country, (after removing his 5 billion watt security light from where the sun don't shine) you can almost guarantee "OOhhhs" and "AAAhhs" when he looks up.
If we can educate our next door neighbours then we are halfway there, because they will then be on side.
Unfortunately though "Ignorance is bliss".
This new 'Light pollution bill' (like anything ANY Government does), only goes halfway to a remedy. The other half of the remedy being voted on in 2050 or thereabouts.............
In finishing, I DO CARE! I just feel helpless.............plenty of people listen but not enough take action.
I had a mate once who shot out bright lights when they got on his nerves, drastic I know, And I am not suggesting for a second that anybody does that, but, needless to say, the Council concerned in Northern Ireland got so fed up replacing the lights, that after 22 visits to repair the row of 3 lights, they gave up and didn't repair them anymore.............
THIS IS ILLEGAL! DO NOT DO THAT! JUST BECAUSE IT WORKED FOR HIM DOES NOT MEAN IT WILL WORK FOR YOU!
Ta Ta for now.
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there is in silence....(and true darkness, without cloud cover).
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Richard Mcc
I think we are on the same wavelength. I too feel very downhearted about the ongoing light pollution problem. However, I also feel even more downheated about the way we supposed astronomers do nothing about it or at least the great majority of us.
Three of us from our lacal society travelled 150miles plus to get to a light pollution at Reading about ten tears ago. The attendance of astronomers at the meeting was in my opinion quite pathetic. Although the astronomical press hailed the meeting a big success. It was claimed their were 200 people at the meeting. Our groups assessment was there were about 80 astronomers in the audience and admittedly perhaps up to 40 people who were organisers speakers and exhibitors. It was "officially" such a big success that other such meetings would be held in following years. But non ever did! at least not in the UK. The Lighting Fraternity who attended the meeting must have been rubbing their hands at the apparent pathetic interest in light pollution by UK astronomers.
About a year ago I attended a meeting organised by the North England Section of the Institution of Lighting Engineers, at which Light Pollution was discussed. Admittedly the meeting being a mid-week afternoon was not held at a convenient time; there were about 40 lighting engineers at the meeting but only 2 astronomers. At the NW region official launch meeting of last years House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's "Light Pollution and astronomy "Report at which Dr Brian Iddon MP made the report public there was a MAGNIFICENT attendance of about 25 astronomers. More people than that attend at the same room weekly when the local society meet there. AND that meeting could have been attended by all astronomers in the NW England.
Incidentally Dr Iddon did an absolutely first class job of his light pollution report presentation at the meeting and I take my hat off too him (and nothing to do with my political views - which I don't think any official party would like anyway).
Best wishes to everyone from a very grumpy Cliff
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Post by Hampshire Astronomer »

Hi There,

Light pollution has got so bad where I live that I just to go for the sun and the moon now.....they are my favourites anyway but its a real nuisance when you want you to look at a deep sky object though :(

The local council are getting better though and seem to be fitting those new reflector hoods which defer most of light downwards

Dave
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Dave
The Sun and the Moon offer a lot and could no doubt keep us happy observing them alone. The problem I found originally with respect to the Moon was it is so tricky to draw. I greatly admire Lunar observers whether they are visual observers who sketch it or astro-photographers who take pics of it. I think one problem I have with the Moon is I find it a bit like looking something up in an Encyclopeidia. I intend to observe someting on the Moon and get looking at something else. Next thing I know I forgot what I was looking at in the Encyclopeidia in the first place.
On top of that when I try to draw Moon features I also fall into another trap, I probably try to draw too much. Those were reasons why I personally tended to opt towards observing the planets. I found what I could see on the planets less complicated than the Moon and I could get my head round them (well at least a little better?).
As for the Sun up until the Venus transit I was very scared of observing it at all except occasionally by projection. Then I plucked up courage (or went daft?) and got some Baader filter. I was really pleased to see the Venus transit using the Baader Filter, on a 70mm refractor, half 20x60 bins and Baader over over unaided eye.
I now observe the Sun fairly often by various means. I even make a few Sun sketches, it can be nice drawing in the warmth of day..
With regards light pollution my feeling is that here it is gradually getting worse all the time. Having said that in some respects I think othertimes think it could be worse. I suppose some might say that local authorities are paying more attention to the light pollution problem. It is fashionable to use cut-off lighting and it would be daft not to use it. But then they'll build a contemporary piece of sculpture which everyone thinks is wonderful (I sometimes wonder how many really think its wonderful or are think they should think that for some peculiar reason).
Our local authority upgraded our local (residential road) street lighting a year or so back. Some might say it is somewhat better reflected downwards than the old lighting. However, the old lighting was 35 watt LPS the new lighting is 70 watt LPS. Perhaps the only thing that may really result in a serious reduction in light pollution is increases in cost of electricity. The trouble is that lighting inventors are apparently trying to perfect LED street-lights which will supposedly consume very little electricity. In 1995 they built a Tesco Superstore only a couple hundred metres from here. I thought well at least that (replacing abot 40 streetlights with in excess of 100 in the same area + advertising lighting)would be the ultimate extent of nearby lighting in my neighbourhood. Needless to say I was really kidding myself. Within a few months Tescos got 24 hour shopping so ALL THE LIGHTS stay on all night instead of just a few after 9.00pm. Then because of crime our local authority put up more security lights (admittedly infra red triggered) in the vicinity of our garden, then they chopped down leylandi that actually shielded my observing location from one of their horrendous security lights thats permanently on all night (thats about 60 metres away. Then we got a Marks & sparks 300 metres south, few people objected to that but they sneaked in a Carpet Right, with wonderful illuminated advertising. Now to 500 metres to our south a developer is building a so called three pod mixed commercial residential development. There was tremendous local opposition to that but amongst other things objecting residents were told we had not made any scientific case whereas the developer had. Incidentally the developer initially applied for a three sorey development to no one objected but many expressed various concerns. Then the developer changed the propals several times. One of out big unscientific objections was the increased traffic that would be generated. The developer and local council buldozed the scheme through. "Unusually" the planning meeting was held in the afternonnn meaning many objectors could not attend (even so many did!). Even then the committee only got the scheme through because the committee chairman voted once causing a draw then had the casting vote to get the ten (but really 11 storey development approved. They are now building the monstrosity, so-called continental style appartments. Incidentally at one public meeting the developer said they were building affodable accommodation,. When someone asked how much, the developer could not answer. Meanwhile at Christmas the local traffic was caotic. The builders\developer requested the local council to make the adjacent road one way - for three years. The local residents went berserk. The council dared not approve that, even the local MP who had been lying low since supporting the developer, "sided" with the locals (I wonder wwhy). Meanwhile Marks & Sparks started diverting their car park traffic out onto the back residential road, becuse the front access was jammed up. Things would not have been quite as bad if they had not built the Carpet Right (Wrong). Needless to say when they got planning permission it was only on the condition they did not use that local residents road. Well Dave I apologise for wittering on. I wish you the very best of luck with allthings and particularly observing the Moon and Sun. They are incredible things to see and arguably two of the most important things affecting our well being, so certainly always well worth looking at.
Best wishes from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
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Post by Hampshire Astronomer »

Hi Cliff,

I too use the Baader solar filters and it has increased my viewing pleasure of the sun 10 fold!

With viewing the moon I also used to tend to draw a small piece at a time, aim for one particular element and just go for that at first...my artistic ability is very poor at best and I was always hesitant about astrophotography and CCD imaging...mainly because of the cost then I cottoned onto the idea of just holding my digi cam at the eyepiece and it works really well although a little tricky at times :)

I can now observe much more of the moon by takings pics with my camera instead of spending hours drawing the subject being viewed...have a go at it and see what you think.

I would be interested in your results

Dave
Last edited by Hampshire Astronomer on Sat Feb 19, 2005 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Dave
We are definitely on the same wavelength about the Sun. The main difference really I never got into digi cams. I use "ordinary" digital canmeras , I have never ever even tried using the short video clip facility on our 4 year old Samsung Compact camera.
I have though used a Philips Toucam. One thing I don't like about using the Toucam on the Sun is I tend to only get images covering only a part of one bit of the Sun. It would be nice very often to get the whole lot on board. However, there are times when I find its nice to just sketch the Sun, or sometimes just admire its majesty. I never fail to wonder just how big the Sun really is. How I wonder what you (The Sun) are?
Best wishes from nearly not Grumpy old Cliff
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Post by Hampshire Astronomer »

Hi There,

Also my local AG has some government releases documenting the problen of light pollution and their responses to the solve the problem.

The addy is www.hantsastro.org.uk and then look under the light pollution section on the site

Makes interesting reading but be warned :shock: one of the reports is 73 pages long :shock:

Dave
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Post by Orchard47 »

Just to depress you all even more, I have been looking back at my Observing Book from 1964. I used to live at Chertsey, 22 miles from the centre of London in those days. The Milky Way would stretch right down to the horizon and was so bright some nights that I used to think it was white clouds! Real clouds were actually black shadows against the background of stars. I used to be able to see M51 with 8 X 50 binoculars and the Andomeda Galaxy was no problem with the unaided eye.

One other point which seems to have been overlooked in this topic is that it's not just light pollution that is the problem, it's air pollution as well. Have you ever noticed how the light pollution varies from one day to the next? It's especially bad if there is any mist around. I'm sure this has become a lot worse as time has gone by too.

I have a 14 inch Dob and the limiting magnitude is supposed to be around 14.3. After extensive testing, I have never been able to see anything fainter than 12, and I live in a small village which has no street lights!

Chris
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Post by Hampshire Astronomer »

Hi

Good point there well raised.

Air pollution is a major contributing factor as well, thats why light pollution appears to be worse in heavy industry cities, however this form of air pollution is probably already under legislation from the government so what we as amateur astronomers can do on what is probably an already hevaily controlled area of the environment I am at a loss to pose a possible solution.

If we tackle the light problem then hopefully the side effect of that will be that not so much of the air pollution will be illuminated.

Whats your thoughts on this?

Dave
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Chris and Dave
I feel very concerned that you are badly affected in rural Somerset.
I must admit that I have not really checked my visual limiting magnitude using my 8 inch scopes for quite a while. However, my unaided eye limiting mag towards the Zenit is on reasonable nights about 4 to 4.5, sometimes more like 3 but very occasionally mag+5 (though not very often). Most of my Deep Sky observing I now do using CCDs and can usually get to mag +16 fairly easily, even mag +18. That is using an 8 inch scope. Light pollution restricts the exposure times depending on the f ratio used, at F6.3 . I tend to find 3 minutes the limit, but the tracking accuracy of my equipment is such that I often use 60 second exposures, or even30 seconds, and stack several exposures together to effectively achieve longer exposures. One of my friends with an 8 inch scope at a similar location to me using a CCD reckons to have got to as faint as mag +20 but I am not sure how accurate that assessment is?
I have very limited experience of looking through dobsonian telescopes myself but I am sure they are excellent instruments. Of course with regards visual magnitude limits i think people usually refer to stars rather than fuzzies. I understand that Gary poyner an expert variable star observer, monitors magnitude +16 objects using a 16 inch dobsonian from Birmingham (though how near the city centre i do not know). I agree that atmospheric pollution plays an important part in the light pollution issue and is one of the big reasons that the limiting magnitude varies so much at this location. I live very close to Junction17 of the M60(M62)A56 (400 metres north of here) there is a pollution monitoring device at the junction. Apparently it is one of the worst locations for air pollution in Europe. Perhaps I am lucky to still be alive never mind able to observe any stars. However, yet another factor is the contribution of aviation. I have sometimes counted as many as 30 or more contrails above my location at one given time. Of course contrails are just another example of pollution although the aviation lot claimed contrails are totally harmless scientists are gradually realising that they probably contribute to global warming quite significantly.
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Post by Hampshire Astronomer »

Hi Brian
I live very close to Junction17 of the M60(M62)A56 (400 metres north of here)


I would never have guessed that looking at the south view through your observatory
David Scanlan

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