Possability of more light pollution?

Discuss the greatest threat to amateur astronomy today

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Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear al
I agree with many of the things that have been said.
However, in the main I stick to my guns.
By the way my comments about armchair astronomers are not necessarily meant to be totally derogatory. There is nothing wrong with being in being an armchair astronomer. In the same way that there is nothing wrong in being a football supporter. But I never heard a football supporter claiming to be an actual footballer. By the same token I do not think membership of an astronomical organisation automatically makes someone an amateur astronomer. But of course that is only MY opininion, others have a right to different opinions.
Funnily ebnough i know of at least two people who are officials in astronomical societies who seem to have little or no actual interest in astronomy at all. Yet they do excellent jobs on behalf of the astronomical societies and their members.
There are all sorts of anomalies.
With regards to light pollution as far as I am concerned anyone can say whatever they like about it and write whatever they like. However, I am just stating my own opinion on the matter and pointing out what I think are potential pit falls.
I am pretty sure that the majority of the general public have little understanding about light pollution and tend to want more artificial lighting. Talking to my neighbours when the local authority improved our residential road lighting a couple of years back I think showed every one of them was in favour of the lighting "upgrading". When I mentioned that the new lights are actually twice the wattage of the old lights some people did not believe me. They think the brighter lighting has been achieved puely by using better more efficient "bulbs".The attitude of one very important politician when light pollution was mentioned in parliament to him seemed even less important to him than not attending a recently dead politicians funeral.
So for anyone keen to send any letters complaining about light pollution, as someone once said something like "publish and be damned" I might add be careful.
I think that the CfDs does an excellent job. I am guilty myself of being something of a maverick on this issue. I happen to think I have good reason to be so, although others might disagree with me I would not necessarily advocate others doing the same. If I had my way every astronomical society in the UK would be required to pay a levy to the CfDS of say perhaps £1 per person who is a society member. My own gut feeling is that not many members of astronomical societies are really very bothered about light pollution.
Again I would cite the miserable lack of attenders at two very important meetings that I have personally knowledge of, over the last two decades.
The attendance by astronomers was so poor that I think the street lighting fraternity must have jumped for joy about how little concerned astronomers seemed to be.
Best wishes from the stil Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear al
Sorry me again!
Having been thinking a bit more about the back passage lighting issue.
I had a natter with a CfDS rep just a few minutes ago.
Believe it or not I am on good terms with at least some of the CfDS.
He mentioned that he has heard that a recent academic study suggests that where substantial gates have been fitted preventing access to the passages, (except of course for residents themselves who have keys), crime has bee reduced drastically. The good news being that he thinks the study also says that where gates have been fitted there is probably no need for lighting to be provided.
I think that is very good news indeed.
However it occurred to me there might still be other possible associated potential problems. Bare in mind my knowledge of these following issues pushes my memory back quite a few years. Apart the possibility of my memory being wrong, there may have been other recent changes I am not aware of.
1) the passages may actually be "public highways" whereby strictly speaking any member of the public has the right to use them, Possibly just as a footway of even possibly to drive a vehicle along.
1a) the passages may be adopted whereby the local authority are responsible for their maintenance.
1b) the passages may not be adopted, meaning that the residents af properties alongside the passages would normally be responsible for maintenance.
2) the passages may not be public highways at all and only the local residents have a right to use the passages. Generally speaking the residents themselves would be responsible for these passages maintence.
The residents would also probably be resonsible for any passage lighting. However, the local authority might have some powers to restrict the nature of the lighting eg if it caused a public nuisance,
However, I think there could be a problem since residents who erect lighting would probably say that the lighting was needed on security grounds. Any outsiders objecting to the lighting would probably need to have a very strong case.
In the past I have on occasion brought the attention to the authorities of what I will call excessive lighting being potentially dangerous. In particular some advertising lighting and car park lights causing direct glare to motorists.
I have not raised those issues particularly with regards light pollution in the normal astronomical sense but has being an actual hazard . No action was ever taken. Perhaps if their had been several accidents the local authorities would have done something.
One of the few successes I did have was respect to a multi-storey car park, which I had noticed was kit all night even though it was always locked up after 9.00 pm. Initially after my complaint nothing was done.
It materialised the reason was that with regards to street lighting highway authority pay an amount of money based on the total number street lights they are responsible for , rather than individual metering. So for example if the odd street lamp stayed on all day the street lighting bill was not affected (of course the way the payment was originally assessed probably takes into account such wastage). So the car park lighting I had complained about continued to stay on all night for several months. Then I noticed the lights were always being turned off after the car park was closed. It materialised the local authority had realised that the car park lighting was not included in the overall street lighting electricity charges. the Car par was metred seperately, so to help keep the councils costs down the lights were turned off. It seems basically the street lighting fraternity were not in the slightest really bothered about wasting electricity never mind light pollution.
In another case I got involved with a dispute between a very experienced astronomer and the local authority who had "improved" the street lighting in his neighbourhood and caused him significant glare. He put several ideas to the lighting engineers which were well thought out using a scientific approach. I was pretty sure from the start however that the astronomer was on a loser. The local authority engineers would not budge. One suggestion he had made was a different type of street light adjacent his house. 'No impossible on safety grounds. the slight difference in road lighting might cause an accident'. Ironically within a kilomtre distance away several of the new street lights were poking into some large roadside trees. Those lights were actually far less efficient than the lights that were there before. Nothing was done about the trees.
Whilst only a kilometre from where I live a different local authority did a lighting improvement but one street light was of a different ie much the same as the astronomer had asked for near is own home.
I am afraid local authorities are like many political animals and all too often what might seem making a very logical approach is is no good.
That is one reason why I suggest caution and very particular when dealig with a light polution matter.
Best wishes from the grumpy Old Codger Cliff.
mark_smith
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Post by mark_smith »

Good points there cliff. My granddad used to live in a terrace house. they had passages along the back of there gardens. They had the system of having gates up and only having house holders having the keys. This did reduce the crime rate but the light pollution did continue with surrounding houses have ridiculous lighting around there gardens however the lights the council fitted were total rubbish. Since then around my area all lights that brake are now fitted with special lights that reduce the glare and all point down.

Mark
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Mark
What you tell us is good to know. What you say does suggest that the light pollution message may be getting through to the authorities, even if it is rather slowly. You must forgive my strong perhaps sometimes apparently negative approach but I have had some bitter experiences of street lighting both immedately near my home and elsewhere in the Manchester area. The ultimate problem which really sticks in my throat is the fact that of all things the famous or perhaps it should be "infamous" Jodrell Bank Radio telescope is ACTUALLY FLOODLIT.
Best wishes and very good luck from a bitter and twisted getting older and more Grumpy Old Codger Cliff.
davep
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:By the way my comments about armchair astronomers are not necessarily meant to be totally derogatory. There is nothing wrong with being in being an armchair astronomer. In the same way that there is nothing wrong in being a football supporter. But I never heard a football supporter claiming to be an actual footballer. By the same token I do not think membership of an astronomical organisation automatically makes someone an amateur astronomer.
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that the analogy doesn't really work or the fact that this isn't really about people claiming the title "amateur astronomer" (I mean, really, who actually cares about that -- what you contribute should be what counts most in this case), the issue I'd take with the raising of this subject again is that it appears to conflate two totally unrelated issues. So you've "got it in for" people who don't go out and actually observe; ok. But I think it's missing the point and somewhat unfair to generalise about everyone who engages with astronomy in that way by suggesting that not only do they not care about light pollution then actually kind of like it. I see no evidence of that at all. Indeed, if there's anything to the anecdotal evidence you've offered here, the lack of caring is something that spans any kind of observe/armchair boundary that you've personally drawn up.
Cliff wrote:Funnily enough i know of at least two people who are officials in astronomical societies who seem to have little or no actual interest in astronomy at all. Yet they do excellent jobs on behalf of the astronomical societies and their members.
There are all sorts of anomalies.
In other words: you can't really generalise.
Cliff wrote:So for anyone keen to send any letters complaining about light pollution, as someone once said something like "publish and be damned" I might add be careful.
Careful in what sense? We've established that neither Joe nor I are interested in sending form letters asking them not to do anything and stuff like that, so what care do you have in mind?
Cliff wrote:Again I would cite the miserable lack of attenders at two very important meetings that I have personally knowledge of, over the last two decades.
The attendance by astronomers was so poor that I think the street lighting fraternity must have jumped for joy about how little concerned astronomers seemed to be.
Out of interest, how well advertised were these meetings? Your mention of them is the first time I've ever seen anything about them -- and I'd even been in email contact with some civil servant around that time (on a different but astronomy related subject) who had alerted me to the fact that the report in question was going to get under way. My failure to attend any such meeting (assuming there was one anywhere near where I live) wasn't down to lack of interest but was down to not knowing that such a thing was happening. I was (back in my "armchair" days) obviously looking in the wrong places so I'm wondering where I should be looking. Perhaps, in this case, I'm not alone either?

Regarding the CfDS and the issue that started this thread: should I take it that they're aware of this? I dropped them a line about a week ago but haven't had any sort of reply from them.
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Davep
I will agree with you to some extent on one particular point.
You say my (that's me) anology does not work. I woulld answer that by saying, that no analogy works. As far as I am concerned I suspect it is possible to pick holes in any analogy. I think I will leave that point there for now but we can discuss it further if you like. As regards to other things I stick to my guns again. Bare in mind in science there are I think almost always exceptions to categories eg what is Pluto.
Sorry but as regards to the two society organisers I mentioned I knew one reasonably well (he is dead now, so in some ways a bit unfair for me to comment) but although he did a great job organising the astronomical society and even attended the lectures he had organised I do not think he had any real interest in astronomy whatsoever. I am not the only person to say that by the way. From what I gather he would have been quite happy as the secretary of a tennis club or many other things. So I am affraid he was not an amateur astronomer in my book. Had he been secretary of a tennis club there is no way that would have made him a tennis player. Incidentally I was a social member of a cricket club at one time. There is no way I was a cricketer. Another case I know and the bloke is very much well and truly alive. His society has accunulated a huge amout of monet thanks to his efforts. I applaud him for that. I got talking to him at an astronomy meeting last year and he said himself that he had no interest in looking through the telescopes that he had actually got the money for the society to buy. He actually goes to astronomy meetings because he enjoys talking to astronomers (and I will admit he also said he liked to hear what they were doing but it seems mainly because it gives him ideas of things for him to organise at his own society). He is a smashing chap! He has probably done much more for astronomy than I personally ever will. However, I still do not think that he is an amateur astronomer himself.
A more difficult one for me to categorise is an astronomical historian. I attended a lecture he once gave. He started by saying that he had never ever looked through an astronomical telescope and had no desire to do so. He then went on to give quite an interesting talk about a long dead astronomer. About a third of the talk was about the dead astronomers astronomy. the other two thirds was about the astronomers life. Personally I would much more have enjoyed the talk had it been two thirds about the astronomers astronomy and one third about his life. To be honest I thought the dead astronomers life was pretty boring. Maybe the dead astronomer did not do enough astronomy to say much about?
I have said many times that what I say is only my own opinion.
I think you made a point that some of the people I have been having a go at do or have done a lot for astronomy\ amateur astronomy. I might actually agree with that. However, as I have said I think people can do a lot for astronomy\amateur astronomy but not necessarily be amateur astronomers themselves. I would be the first to admit that I am a very selfish sort of guy. I do not do astronomy for the benefit of other people astronomers or otherwise, I do astronomy because it gives me pleasure.
Being what I might call a proper amateur astronomer does not necessarily mean they are a better person than someone not interested in astronomy. Neither does being a nice guy necessarily make them an astronomer. One or two nice guys might even play cricket for Australia.
Although that might be stretching a point too far. Could be a bad analogy.
Best wishes from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
davep
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:I will agree with you to some extent on one particular point.
You say my (that's me) anology does not work. I woulld answer that by saying, that no analogy works.
Hmm, a good analogy can generally be quite illustrative. But that wasn't my main point.

I was mostly questioning your assertion that "armchair astronomers" welcome light pollution. Writing about people who aren't astronomers in any sense of the word (and don't wish to be) and further work to show that "armchair astronomers" aren't "real amateur astronomers" (despite the fact that it's an unrelated and somewhat questionable subject anyway) doesn't really flesh out the original assertion.

And I was, of course, hoping for a little more information regarding:
davep wrote:Regarding the CfDS and the issue that started this thread: should I take it that they're aware of this? I dropped them a line about a week ago but haven't had any sort of reply from them.
but that seems to have gotten lost. :(
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Davep
Sorry, but I think we are on very different wavelengths in some respects.
I am afraid I am inclined to feel that when you are unhappy about some aspect of discussion you tend to hang great importance on every single word. Of course there is a need to be as clear as possible in discussion, However, sometimes discussions can become unhealthy argument if taken too far. However, irrespective of that I do not properly understand some of your quite possibly genuine concerns.
With regards "amateur astronomers" and an exact definition of what they are. I would have to hold my hands up and say if push comes to shuvvV.
I cannot give an exact definition. In different discussions I might even be guilty of occasionally cheating and use the term "amateur astronomer" as it might suit me at the time.
However, I will say that I have come across people let us say interested in astronomy who do say something like " well I would observe but my light pollution is too bad". Now to be fair I would have to admit that in many cases I do not know what that particular persons light pollution is like. Sometimes though I either know or have a good idea that they are fibbing as to how bad things are. Another thing is that over a period years I have actually observed with some of the types of people I have been getting at. I feel that experience justifies my feelings.
With regards to you mentioning the apparent failure of the CfDS to respond to your query or comment, I cannot really make direct comment.
Irrespective of me not understanding the context of your comments. I would mention that I think the CfDs is a voluntary organisation, with limited support. There are relatively few active CfDS officers. I applaud their efforts even if I do not always agree with them. They are in an very difficult position because I do not think they get the support they deserve from the astronomical fraternity in general. Whilst on the other hand they also have to put up with some extremist opinions like mine.
So if they do not respond immediately or even not at all, do not take umbridge too much.
Best wishes from the Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
davep
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Post by davep »

Cliff wrote:So if they do not respond immediately or even not at all, do not take umbridge too much.
S'ok Cliff, I'm well aware of how the CfDS work in this regard and don't expect a response at all, let alone quickly. That isn't what I was asking, I was asking about something you said in a post a few days ago:
Cliff, a short while back wrote:Having been thinking a bit more about the back passage lighting issue.
I had a natter with a CfDS rep just a few minutes ago.
Which suggested that you raised this subject with someone in the CfDS and I wondered if you'd found out that they were aware of the issue or not.
Cliff
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Post by Cliff »

Dear Davep
Yes indeed, I discussed the "back passage" issue with a well known CfDS personality. I would rather not mention his\her name because he\she might feel embarassed by any suggestion that he\she knows me.
The CfDS rep was well aware of some of the "back passage" issues. I must confess I took it for granted that the DfDS in general were also pretty well aux fais with the back passage issues.
But possibly back passages may not be common in some CfDS reps areas so they are not prticualrly in the know. Understanable perhaps because they probably have a lot of things on their plate.
As I think I may have mentioned before some research into the issue suggests that where the back passages have been blocked off by gates,
( part of the same initiative) crime has apparently been found to have reduced considerably. Indeed there was some sort of suggestion that where that was the case then there might be no need to also provide lighting. I suppose the problem might still arise that some local residents may still "request\demand more lights if some have been provided elsewhere nearby.?
Best wishes from the Very Grumpy Old Codger Cliff
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Post by davep »

So the CfDS are aware of this. Good, thanks for confirming that.
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