Whats the problem?!

Discuss the greatest threat to amateur astronomy today

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scottwilson1984
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Whats the problem?!

Post by scottwilson1984 »

Hi,

I don't get what the 'huge' problem is and why everyone is ALWAYS complaining about light pollution. Its not THAT bad for heavens sake. I live in a huge development area with an indoor Ski Slope and shopping outlet and yes, the sky isn't the best sometimes, but its not bad ALL the time and even at the worst of times its not THAT bad... and I can still see the sky tremendously clearly a lot of the nights. I just wish people would stop blowing this whole light pollution thing right out of proportion.

What do other people think? Anyone Disagree? Agree? Id like to hear some (non abusive) comments back :D

I have more of a problem with cloud pollution than anything else! LOL.


Scott 8)

joe
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Post by joe »

It may be that many people complain because they see a tremendous deterioration in conditions now compared to what they were twenty or thirty years ago. I don't know your particular situation but maybe you accept that the Milky Way is invisible, for example. Others, maybe older than you (?), remember seeing it regularly on every clear night and feel aggrieved that lighting up the sky with badly designed lights has robbed them of something special. For Milky Way, read nearly every faint fuzzy dimmer than magnitude +8... or there abouts.

Would I be wrong in thinking that scottwilson1984 contains the year of your birth?
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KendalAstronomer
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Post by KendalAstronomer »

There are various problems associated with light pollution. Non-astronomical ones include trouble with animals (including human) bodyclocks due to unusual light levels. This is very apt for me as I sleep in the glare of the night lights of St Pancras station... The escaped light requires energy to generate it, which is a climate and cost problem.

In terms of astronomy, when you're looking at far off fuzzies, light pollution reduces the contrast between them and the background, which makes every faint fuzzy even fainter. Interesting targets become lost first to the unaided eye, then to binoculars, telescopes etc. Watching a meteor shower in London will produce fewer dim meteors than one in the Lake District, for example.

In terms of doing more with the hobby, if you're taking images, photographic film will fog, CCDs will pick up the additional light and even sketches will be missing detail due to the reason above. Careful tuning of exposure times and CCD sensitivity is required to be able to capture enough of the target without getting much in the way of the extraneous light. If you're doing spectroscopy, then the spectrum will contain additional lines corresponding to the wavelengths of the pollution. These have to be removed, which can be more of an art than a science.

So, to sum up, it's a fog. More technically, it's the fog of particles already in the sky made to shine brighter by badly positioned lights on the ground and it just gets in the way of everything.

Eclipse
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Post by Eclipse »

1984? The year my youngest was born.

And I don´t think he has ever seen the Milky Way.
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12dstring
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Post by 12dstring »

Well I was born in 1989, and only got into astronomy last year, so have never known properly dark skies to compare to.

I do most of my imaging from the middle of a town, and the light pollution isn't the worst I'll have to say, I even caught a glimpse of the Milky Way on a particularly clear week last summer.
But as an astrophotographer, it causes all manner of problems.

For one, anything more than 30 seconds unfiltered will just be washed out with orange, and as a result I've had to spend over £300 on various filters than 'tone down' the light pollution.
Even so, no single filter can elliminate it completely, there'll always be white light pollution which is similar to Moonlight and cannot be filtered out.
This has the effect of reducing contrast in images (and visual views) and ultimately will limit the amount of detail you can get from an object, as well as limiting the objects you can image to those above a certain brightness.

As mentioned, I for one cannot enjoy a good meteor shower from my garden, the sky is too bright to see a decent amount - instead I have to go about 2 miles outside my town for that. I remember when I was up in the Lake Distract last year, and even from the town I was staying in, the night sky was just ablaze with stars. It was an amazing sight, and have seen nothing like it since.

The thing that baffles me is why taxpayers don't have a problem paying to light up the sky. With the orange sodium lamps, around 30% of the light goes upwards or horizontally. Now if you consider each lamp costs £40 per year to power, and there are 7.5 million streetlights in the UK - this amounts to £90 million a year. Not to mention the 545,690 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year pumped into the atmosphere purely to light up the sky. It just doesn't make sense to me.
Dave

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nas76
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Post by nas76 »

Even living in a medium sized town the levels of light polution is felt, though luckily due to people's fences and houses street lights are not in my direct line of sight but I cannot see the Milky Way as well as I know would be possible without the polution.

I've only recently acquired a telescope but I've always been interested in the heavens. In my lifetime I have been starstruck twice at the beauty of the skies when there was zero/near zero light polution and once you see that you can appreciate how much light polution makes a difference. The first time I saw the skies as nature intended was when I was on Alderney 8 years ago, because it is a lowly populated island and the other was during a power-cut when on holiday in Peru 3 years ago (that night was moonless too), our galaxy was significantly more visible than I can ever hope to see it at home.

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Eclipse
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Post by Eclipse »

I have a street light that shines right onto my property - I am sore tempted to get the air rifle out!!!
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davep
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Re: Whats the problem?!

Post by davep »

scottwilson1984 wrote:What do other people think? Anyone Disagree? Agree? Id like to hear some (non abusive) comments back :D
I live out in the countryside. While we have a fair bit of lighting in our village I can't complain. Once or twice a year I stay in London on business (normally in winter). I generally find that, when I am in London, I struggle to find my way around the sky because so few stars are as obvious as I'm used to at home.

How are you measuring "not that bad" vs "good"?

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Post by Hawk »

Scott, may I suggest on a night when the cloud pollution isn't around and you can see the stars, that you jump into the car and take a drive right out into the countryside away from the city, the M1 and M62. Go somewhere right out in the sticks, where there are no street lights, down some dark country lane, park up, wait for 10 mins then get out and look up. I'm sure then you'll notice the difference and only then you might understand why some people harp on about light pollution. :wink:
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Ligh Pollution - no problem?

Post by Flying Astronomer »

Surely, the issue here for wider society, not just astronomers, is that of wasted resources.

There's no point arguing that LP can be effectively eliminated (reflections from surfaces aside) by using properly designed lamps - and there are plenty out there to choose from now. No-one can argue that wasting at least half of a lamp's light into the sky, where it serves no useful purpose whatsoever, is nothing short of ridiculous and ignorant in the face of diminishing resources and climate change.

You could also argue that without concerned astronomers and some level of legal preventative measures, LP might be - and yet could be - much much worse such that even CCD's, filters and the like would not work very effectively.

I suppose if I were to invite the person who can't see a problem with LP were to come to my part of the world and sit on the ground looking a the Milky Way, he would change his mind very quickly. It's not just about levels of darkness or of LP, it's about your right to disconnect from the inconsequential woes of everyday life, and look up and realise where and who we are in the Universe.

John Rowlands, North Wales Representative, Campaign for Dark Skies 1989-2002(ish)

Vega
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Post by Vega »

Hi Scott

I have to disagree with you. (apart from the clouds bit :lol: ). I used to think along similar lines until I got the chance to take my scope away from my light polluted garden. It really does make a vast difference on deep sky objects (most especially with large aperture scopes). You get a much clearer and contrasty view. As for photography, it makes ALL the difference... to be frank, the difference between a photo with bright orange background and a black one!

Admitadly it's only really the immediate light pollution thats a problem for me ie. the street lights that are literally in view of the garden. Like at any viewing location, overall skyglow is down to how 'messy' the sky is to reflect the town/city lights. On a crisp night with clean arctic air... there is no mess up there to reflect the skyglow back downward resulting in occasional stunning skies but it doesn't happen often enough.

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barf
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Post by barf »

Scott, may I suggest on a night when the cloud pollution isn't around and you can see the stars, that you jump into the car and take a drive right out into the countryside away from the city, the M1 and M62.
you dont need to go far, im only over near Selby, and my sky is far better than where Scot is (i obviously dont know exactly but from your description i think your near Xscape)

The level of light pollution from Xscape and the surrounding shops/warehouses is terrible. Xscape has a searchlight that is absolutely pointless, and as can be seen on a foggy night on my way home from work on the M62, most of the warehouse floodlights shine right over the buildings


Drive out to Naburn Lock on a clear night and take a look

scottwilson1984
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Post by scottwilson1984 »

Would I be wrong in thinking that scottwilson1984 contains the year of your birth?
Joe 1984 isn't the year of my birth, however my name is a significant year which is why I use it as my Username. I apologise, I can see why that may be misleading.

you dont need to go far, im only over near Selby, and my sky is far better than where Scot is (i obviously dont know exactly but from your description i think your near Xscape)
It is nice to see someone more local to me on the forum once in a while Barf. I am just up the road from Xscape, yeah.
The level of light pollution from Xscape and the surrounding shops/warehouses is terrible. Xscape has a searchlight that is absolutely pointless, and as can be seen on a foggy night on my way home from work on the M62, most of the warehouse floodlights shine right over the buildings
.

I absolutely agree with you on that one Barf, some of those lights are an absolute joke at Xscape, not to mention how unnecessary they are. And as for the search light, that scans the sky left to right pointlessly, it is the worst thing I have ever come across. However reverting back to my original point, these lights have very little effect on my viewing, I'd say the thing that most impedes my viewing is the steam released from Ferrybridge 'C' Power Station as that is directly East (the direction in which I view most).



I think I need to clarify this as people appear to have got the wrong end of the stick and think that I am against the idea that light pollution is a problem. I didn't say that Light Pollution wasn't a problem at all, because it is, it is a big problem, and the new lights that have been put in around here are unnecessarily bright, they actually leave an impression on your retina for quite some time if you look at them, they are also a hell of a lot higher than the previous Orange Sodium Lamps.

My point was that Light Pollution doesn't particularly stop you viewing, it impedes it slightly but definitely doesn't stop you.
I don't get what the 'huge' problem is and why everyone is ALWAYS complaining about light pollution
As you can see, my initial post was directed at the people who constantly complain and complain, post after post about light pollution, we all know it exists, there is very little at this present time that we can do about it, therefore us amature astronomers need to adapt and alter the way in which we view, whether this be driving out to a dark country location, or sitting low or putting up sheets to reduce the amount of light from surrounding houses, anything which can help.


I apologise for misleading people, I am definitely not against the theory of light pollution, from living in a development area I know first hand the effects of light pollution


A lot of awfully valid points raised however, which make you think a lot more in-depth about the whole situation.



Thanks,
Scott.[/quote]

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Post by Davej »

Hi,
Scott..Totally agree
Make the most of what you"ve got
As you can see, my initial post was directed at the people who constantly complain and complain, post after post about light pollution, we all know it exists, there is very little at this present time that we can do about it, therefore us amature astronomers need to adapt and alter the way in which we view, whether this be driving out to a dark country location, or sitting low or putting up sheets to reduce the amount of light from surrounding houses, anything which can help.
Nail on the head Scott,
I am as guilty as most when it comes down to moaning about light pollution. Have said this before, but whilst out walking my little dog I (having taken a car trip first :roll: ...only a short one) have found good viewing points not too far from my home...the dog gets bored but I think it"s good viewing :)
Surely its not that far away to find a dark site :)

(as a kid I can rememember getting on my old mums bike with a pair of 10x50"s rounnd my neck and heading out into the darkness, pleased as punch (happy days) :)

Plenty of good viewing locations if you wander about a bit :)
Take note and remember :)
Dave
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scottwilson1984
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Post by scottwilson1984 »

Exactly Dave I couldn't agree more. My way of thinking is instead of moaning about it, get off you're de-riers and make a difference, change what you can and make the best of a bad situation which we all have to put up with. It doesn't take much.

Everyone who has the transportation (even a push bike if you haven't got a car!) should take a short ride to a few places and see where is the best. And make the most of it, even if it means sitting in the middle of a farmers field! (with 'permission' of course :wink: ).


Happy Viewing Squires :D
Scott.

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