Whats the problem?!

Discuss the greatest threat to amateur astronomy today

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Post by Maccers »

Scott, I do have a problem with light pollution - its other peoples light spoiling my view. Anyone out there who likes during the day to appreciate a view from a hilltop/their living room window or from work or school should understand the concept.

If I took an area of outstanding natural beauty and covered it in a thin layer of orange paint it wouldn't be a problem would it? After all, all you have to do is drive a little way to where the paint ran out. Not only that but the view you enjoyed of the fields and hills is still there, after all covering it with orange paint hasn't removed the fields etc has it?

I'm not trying to come on hard here but light pollution has been getting steadily worse and worse. Even in the three years I've been at my current house near the edge of Taunton the orange glow has spread from up to 40 degrees in the east to nearly 60-70 degrees to the east and north. Merely making do with it and not complaining will just allow things to get worse.
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Post by Davej »

Contrary to what British papers seem to think, when the lights go off, the burglars, muggers, rapists, etc. do not all come out to commit crimes.
Too true, they don"t have to wait for darkness..they can do it in broad daylight.
My elderly mother-in-law (in her eighties) wouldn"t dream of going out at night (even with floodlit streets). She was stood at a bus-stop one summer afternoon and had her bag snatched on a busy street, my sister had the same thing done to her in a busy supermarket carpark in an early afternoon. If this had happened at night in darkness the cries would have gone out for more (unneccersary IMO) lighting.
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M Paul Lloyd
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Post by M Paul Lloyd »

Hi all, sorry to butt in out of the blue like this but I have been so busy elsewhere that getting on here has been impossible and this is a subject very close to my heart.
You see a few years back I did some campaigning against light pollution and even belonged to the Campaign For Dark Skies but had to give it all up when my wife became pregnant as I simply could not afford the time anymore.
However it had pretty much run its course I have to admit as after writing repeatedly to 10 Downing Street, my MP and the local council asking why so many new and ever brighter lights were being installed I found myself faced with rather closed ranks and a stubborn refusal to take my concerns at all seriously. Light pollution is a major problem not just in built up areas but their has been a huge increase in street lighting along every stretch of road for miles around along with searchlight quality units in supermarket car parks and office blocks lit up like christmas trees! This is not simply replacement of old inefficient units either but doubling up of numbers and new installations along supposed public footpaths, that are used infrequently at best, which simply act as magnets for groups of youths and miscreants.
They confuse wildlife who's natural body clocks are thrown out of kilter and they do little more than add a 'comfort' factor for those voluble individuals who appear to be afraid of the dark.
Add to this the insane growth of garden lighting and I wonder no-one from the green lobby has not asked questions about the huge amount of energy consumption this all accounts for? We are being browbeaten into conserving energy on the one hand and yet seeing it squandered on the other for the benefit of a few individuals who cannot be bothered to buy a decent torch.
The thing is, excessive ground based light at night is a huge disadvantage when the things you want to see are so very small by comparison. I miss being able to see the Milky Way and I feel deprived of something special but no-one seems at all bothered about such concerns just so long as it is never dark.
Ok, rant over. Thanks for listening. :)

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Post by Eclipse »

Sketchie Kernow wrote:
Eclipse wrote:I have a street light that shines right onto my property - I am sore tempted to get the air rifle out!!!
Have a look at this and then speak nicely to the local council reminding them of their legal obligations :)


I live in Spain. The local authority would have no interest whatever in some mad English guy bleating on about the lights that they have installed at such expense.

But should one ´accidentally fail´ they would take months to put it right.

Now where did I put those pellets?
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Post by Eclipse »

Deimos wrote:Contrary to what British papers seem to think, when the lights go off, the burglars, muggers, rapists, etc. do not all come out to commit crimes.
In fact here most break-ins occur in the aftrernoon.
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Colin Henshaw
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What's the problem?

Post by Colin Henshaw »

What's the problem?

It's a BIG problem.

Light pollution is an insidious form of pollution that does not just annoy astronomers. The astronomers were like the caged canaries that were once used in mines to detect carbon monoxide and methane. Because they were affected by it they were the first to complain. But light pollution does not just affect the night skies. In 1994 I pointed out that lighting world-wide has been sweeping up insects for decades, and that being the case, it would have a concomitant effect on higher order consumers such as birds, bats, other small mammals, spiders, reptiles and amphibians. It also affects plants, as there will be fewer insects to pollinate them, and that this will amplify the already deteriorating positive feedback cycle by providing even less food for the insects to feed on. Environmental organisations are now telling us that there have been major declines in common species over the past forty years that correlate negatively with the expansion of street, security, commercial and decorative lighting over the past forty or fifty years. The connection between the decimation of insects and lighting needs to be recognised by all groups concerned with the environment and they should now vigorously campaign against it. Lighting does not reduce crime, as has been shown in New Zealand and elsewhere, where criminality dropped almost to zero during power cuts. Some lighting, of course, is necessary, but it should be used sparingly, where needed, when needed, and in the correct amounts. It should not to be obtrusive to neighbours and should not to pose a hazard to the environment. Reducing light pollution in the long term, then, will be beneficial to us all, as it will substantially reduce energy wastage, save money and contribute less to global warming and climate change.

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Post by Zeke »

I have mentioned elsewhere on this forum that I went to Tenerife last year and thought that I had suddenly got my eyesight back, but no, it was the difference in seeing conditions.
I remember as a boy (1950s) seeing the Milky Way most nights.
I have only seen it once in the last 15 years where I live now (Wigan).
Never worry!
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Flying Astronomer
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Take a good, long look ...

Post by Flying Astronomer »

...at the messages on this thread. Imagine - and it's not at all unlikely, someone from official circles finding this thread through a search engine. What I see is a bunch of people interested in the same topic -astronomy- utterly unable to come to any cohesive line on how to tackle LP. Worse, more people are resigned to LP than want to fight it. What message does that send to a government so hung-up on simple statistics?

Whilst I would never criticise anyone who has taken the time out to do their bit for campaigning, I do think expecting 'MPs, No. 10 Downing Street and local Councils' to simply change things in response to a letter is being wildly optimistic.

What I have learned over the years, not just with LP, is that if you want something done, you have to GIVE THEM THE ANSWER! Officials don't have the time, energy, or often the inclination to dream up answers to society's woes. In some ways, this is precisely how a democracy should work. We give them the problems, the possible solution, and even the means of implementation. Believe me, it does work. It also needs a long-term dedication and energy to see it all through. I got a clause, only one of five, into my local UDP document. Do people take notice of it? Sometimes. It's an official document, so they should always notice it. But sometimes is better than not having a clause at all. At least for now.

I am very downhearted by the people who continue to see LP as something that can be solved by driving out to the country, or sticking-on a filter. To be honest, it's a cop-out, and symptomatic of today's 'all for me, s*d everybody else' society.

After 20 years of campaigning, there have been big improvements. LP has not yet diminished to any great degree, but the concept has planted itself firmly in people's minds, even the non-astronomy community. I've gone from barely-controlled laughter upon opening a discussion about LP to genuine concern and a willingness to engage on the subject. But that didn't come about through moaning or leaving the glow behind me. It came through hard work over two decades, and will take many more decades to solve completely. I know a number of CfDS officers will have been equally committed, and we should all thank them for it.

LO, Anglesey & Gwynedd.

orion f6.3
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Post by orion f6.3 »

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

Well of course it does!!
If light polution in a given area stops you "seeing" fainter than its own back ground this will not impeded your view it will be invisable. Try this test. View M1 on a Moon less, then with a full moon present does the "light polution" of the moon have any effect? Orion
Deep and Dark.

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Post by Cliff »

Dear Scott
I disagree with you.
As far as I am concerned, everyone, not even every supposed amateur astronomer ever complains much about light pollution.
I think there are about 200 astronomy societies in the UK if one assumes there are 50 members in each that accounts for there being say 10,000 amateur astronomers. Astronomy Now used to claim a circulation of 20,000 (although some say that figure is exaggerated to boost advertising fees !). However, let's say there are 20,000 amateur astronomers in the UK. Many of them are only armchair astronomers. I reckon there are actually hardly 1,000 keen active regular observers and probably even less regularly submit observations to "official" astronomical observing sections.
As far as I am concerned too few amateur astronomers moan about light pollution, except perhaps as an excuse for not observing much. In the past I have done my share of moaning. It rarely achieves much but on the odd occasion it has helped.
Back in the 1990s when Tesco got planning permission (after a farce of a public inquiry) I managed to get their proposed 20 metre high lighting columns on the Tesco Superstore car park reduced to 10 metres.
Mind you I was also assured that the car park lights would be turned off between 9 pm and 7am, one hour after closing time to one hour before opening time. A year after Tescos opened the superstore they opened on a 24 hour basis every day except sundays. Even so the light pollution would be worse if the lighting columns had been 20 metres tall.
Screens are no doubt helpful to cut out direct glare but with regards overall light pollution , I think that is a very different matter.
Best of luck from Cliff

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Post by jomarshall »

I was born in 1984 and it makes me really sad to read all these posts about how you used to be able to regularly see the milky way from the UK. Until recently, I lived in a flat in the centre of Leicester which, at night, never got dark, just a orangey glow (not to mention the drunken shouts of people falling out of yates's at the back of the flats). I used to pray for a power cut.

The only time I have ever seen the milky way was in Greece and it was astonishing. I'm now in Nottingham and it's a lot better but not what I would now consider a 'clear' sky - I can see the main constellations (ursa major, cassiopeia etc) but nearly anything else I can't be sure it is because there aren't enough stars or I just can't see anything ("ooh venus? no, helicopter looking for criminals"). I don't drive and public transport is not the best for a trip in the middle of the night to a random bit of countryside :D

I recall being told about a young gent who went to ask a club if they had a licence for one of those awful light beams but we can assume they didn't as the bouncers weren't exactly 'friendly', shall we say.

So as somebody younger (ish) getting into astronomy, I did initially accept that vast amounts of stars would not be seen from the UK and until I learn to drive (and thus contributing to the emissions of the planet), I shall persevere and believe there are good UK skies out there somewhere.

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