Most people are very familiar with air, water, and land pollution, but there is a form of pollution most people have forgotten: light pollution. Light pollution is simply an excessive and/or in appropriate use of artificial light, which mostly occurs during the nighttime. Many outdoor light fixtures illuminate in all directions, meaning that a large portion of light emitted is sent upwards. If, like most people, you live in a city, it’s unlikely you can see the glorious expanse of the Milky Way. It’s possible you’ve never spotted it at all. For most urbanites, the night sky is a pink glow broken only by the moon, the brightest stars and planets and passing airplanes.
What’s the big deal about light pollution?
There are four specific areas of concern regarding light pollution:
Unnecessary outdoor lighting wastes energy and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Light pollution interferes with wildlife migratory and breeding patterns.
Glare from bad lighting leads to unsafe driving conditions.
Constant exposure to artificial lighting interfers with human metabolism and sleep.
Here are four things you can do to help curb light pollution:
1. Start with the light switch. The cheapest, most obvious and most effective way to reduce light pollution is to start turning things off. While there’s a time and place for outdoor lighting — illuminating after dark activities, for instance — many of us burn outdoor lighting because it gives us a sense of security. In fact, according to the International dark-sky association, there’s little data to support the idea that outdoor lighting reduces crime. Turn on lights when you need them, or use portable lighting. Go dark when you don’t.
2. Consider replacing outdoor lights with intelligently designed, low-glare fixtures. The image featured in this piece shows an easy to remember guide for purchasing outdoor lighting. Think of fixtures that basically illuminate the ground instead of the sky.
3. Place motion sensors on essential outdoor lamps. Motion sensitive switches are great to light up walkways when you need to move around after dark. They’ll pay for themselves in fairly short order.
4. Replace conventional high-energy bulbs with energy efficient lamps. This alone might not directly reduce unnecessary illumination of the night sky but is will greatly help with the secondary pollutions created by excessive lighting. Also, it will hugely help with your monthly bill and reduce power company carbon emissions.
You’ll be surprised how much these small activities will change the quality of your night sky and especially if a group of close by neighbors try this at the same time.
Spread the word
The Iranian National Observatory is currently under construction on the summit of Mount Gargash which is the second highest observatory hosting a 4m-class telescope and it has the second best astronomical seeing among all observatories in the world. Light pollution is the one and only factor that could threaten the quality of the sky at this fantastic location. The same goes for every other observing instrument that might be close to your living area. So take action. Spread the word and raise awareness to this issue in your communities.
We are more than happy to help anyone with further inquiries about the subject.