April 08, 2002
Dark skies at night

Guess I'm blogrolling this morning...From War Liberal comes this story about a group of scientists in Arizona who are campaigning for laws to help keep the skies dark at night. Excess light from the city of Tucson is playing havoc with the observatories in the nearby mountains.

The most comprehensive study of light pollution found that it affects 99 percent of the population in the United States.

It also found that two-thirds of all people in the country live in places where they can no longer discern our own galaxy, the Milky Way, with the naked eye.

I'm a big-city boy. I grew up in New York City and I live in Houston. The smallest city I've ever lived in was San Antonio while I was in college. The first time I ever got a good look at a dark sky was when I took a trip with the Trinity baseball team to Kerrville (a small town about 60 miles west of San Antonio and the home of Kinky Friedman) for an afternoon doubleheader against Schreiner University. It was night by the time the games were over, and I still remember my amazement at how utterly dark it was. I had never experienced such darkness - there's no time in New York where you can't see outside, no place where you can hide from the city's ambient light. Here in Houston on a clear night I can count all the stars that are visible. On a murky night the Orion Constellation is about all you can see. In Kerrville that night I finally understood why ancient civilizations spent so much time looking at the sky. It was magic.

The folks at the nearby George Observatory are also pushing for a responsible outdoor lighting bill, which is working its way through the state Lege at this time. As Mac says, if the opposition is Clear Channel, who pollutes our highways with billboards as they pollute the airways with sucky radio, then there must be some merit to this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 08, 2002 to Technology, science, and math