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Simpsons & Light Pollution

  1. Apr 7, 2003 #1


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    Apparently, the recent episode (this or last Sunday?) was about light pollution (Lisa gets a telescope and can't see anything due to light pollution). I missed it. Anyone see it? Interesting that this subject is getting such esteemed national attention.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2003 #2
    Light Pollution

    It is very nice that it is getting attention; although, not hardly enough.

    I live out in the country, about 7 miles away from a town of roughly 10,000 people, and about 100° around the horizon, and roughly 30° up is completely wiped out of stars. Such a small town like that can have a lot of poorly designed lights, I don't suppose the newly installed car dealership with 24 hour, unshielded, lights helps!

    Anyways, I read in a recent issue of Sky and Telescope that the IDS Association really doesn't do a WHOLE lot, they rely mainly on public support, the article said that they seem to be hold meetings, doing very little to actually help. I don't know, I would send money in if I could afford it! I believe there should be more designated dark sky locations, and less unshielded lights:smile:

    And to the actualy post: I did not see the episode, but Simpsons are the best:wink:

    [edit] typo on rely
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2003
  4. Apr 7, 2003 #3
    I saw the episode. I still don't get why light pollution is a big deal. Is seeing that many stars really that important to most people? maybe if you are an astronomer. but we can always just turn the lights off.

    anyway in the ep lisa somehow gets them to turn the lights of springfield down so she can see the stars. and of course now that's it's so dark at night people run into stuff and have problems. then they jack the lights up to full blast and no one can sleep, ect ect. it was a good episode.
  5. Apr 7, 2003 #4
    It really is a big deal to even the casual star-gazer. The limiting magnitude in a light poluted area can be so low that you can only see the brightest of stars, now what would you tell the guy that has a couple thousand dollar telescope, and can only see as low as the 4th magnitude?!

    Even in binoculars a light poluted area is frustrating. The deep-sky wonders are drowned out with even the smallest amount of light polution, the IDS also says it is a right for all people to be able to enjoy the night sky without the polution of artificial lights, and I am a firm believer of this!


    EDIT: TO POST BELOW::: This is very true! I read somewhere that the lights went out in a large city and they had people calling in because they were scared of the night sky, I believe it was the Milky Way that frightened them.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2003
  6. Apr 7, 2003 #5
    What urban dwellers need is a reminder of nature undisturbed. The more opportunities (like Boy Scouts) they have in the virgin country, the more apt they are to seek that peace at home. Most city folk don't know that an alternative exists.
  7. Apr 8, 2003 #6


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    Yah, and clean air & water really isn't that important either, as long as you can breathe & drink right?

    Well, I guess clean water doesn't matter since you can buy clean water in the stores. I wonder when they'll start sell air bottles?

  8. Apr 8, 2003 #7
    It was nice to see the issue on a public stage
  9. Apr 8, 2003 #8
    I saw that episode. It was decent. It had quite a few funny parts and a smidgen of science.
    I too think our skies have way too much light pollution.
    I think the best place I've seen the stars is in either Washington or Montana, miles away from the nearest city. There are easily more than 20 times the number of stars visible there than at home.
    I think more people would care if they could see the possibility. We should get everyone to go to Montana, or better yet, on an unlighted ship in the middle of the ocean. If they could only see the beauty of our galaxy in it's full splendor, they might think twice about turning on so many lights in the first place.

    In the Simpson's episode, after the lights were turned off, the crime rate rose. This is a legitimate concern, but I really have to wonder if lights discourage theives. It seems like it would make it easier for them. I think a better way to deter crime would be if people got to know their neighbors and help watch out for each other. If an unknown person is prowling around your neighbor's windows, call the cops and/or confront them with a shotgun. If you're worried about your business being robbed when closed, hire a security guard.

    I also have to wonder how many tax dollars are being wasted each year on so many lights. Not to mention the resources consumed generating the electricity and making all the poles, wires, etc.
  10. Apr 8, 2003 #9
    Exactly, or take them up high in the sky in an airplane to see the stars!

    I like your idea of pursuading robbers If you arm everybody then potential criminals don't have an advantage!
  11. Apr 10, 2003 #10


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    Certainly astronomers are the most irked by light pollution (LP). But here's a helpful list...

    (1) LP messes up astronomy.

    (2) LP deprives people, including non-astronomers, of the opportunity of an incredible view and a sense of place and wonder in the universe.

    (3) LP is ugly. (compare orange sky glow vs. starry skies)

    (4) Some LP is dangerous. Glare from some lights causes driving hazards, especially for older people (as our eyes age, they are more susceptible to glare). Next time you're driving around at night, consider all the places in the road you cannot see because of the glare of some light...is there a pedestrian in that blind spot? There are many cases of this kind of accident. There are also some cases of people leaving over-lit gas stations and driving out onto darker roads...they eyes are no longer "dark adapted" and they can't see as well back on the roads...bam, another pedestrian hit.

    (5) Some LP is a nuisance...called "light tresspass". For example, if some business sets up huge lights across the street from your bedroom window and keeps you up at night.

    (6) LP wastes money. It costs money to light that lamp. If half the light misses the target, then half the cost of running that light is wasted. Using shielding and proper aim, you can achieve the same level of lighting in the intended area with a lower wattage bulb...saves money. The IDA estimates that the US loses 1 billion dollars per year on light that pours into the sky rather than where it is was intended to go. Why are you paying your town/city to light the sky with streetlights?

    (7) LP wastes energy/fuel. See above. Corrolary: increases air pollution, etc. by consuming fuel needlessly. Increases dependance on foreign oil. Causes war in the middle east. Ok, now I'm exaggerating. :wink:

    (8) Some LP is hazardous to wildlife. Some nocturnal animals' habitats are messed up. There are countless "bird kills" from birds that are attracted to and run into lit towers or the wires of lit towers (especially some endangered migratory birds). After hatching, some baby sea turtles crawl toward lit roadways rather than the light reflected off ocean water. There is some evidence that LP is bad for vegetation too (e.g., trees need day-night cycles).

    (9) There is some evidence that LP can increase the risk of breast cancer in women (part of the immune system that fights breast cancer operates at night...stimulated by darkness, not time of day).

    (10) There's no conclusive evidence that outdoor lighting reduces crime. Some case studies show higher crime rates in better lit areas. (but other studies do show lighting to reduce crime in other conditions)

    We can, but we don't. Most municipal and business lights and some home lights are on automatic "dusk-to-dawn" timers. No one thinks twice about it. Consider how many businesses light their parking lots all night even though they're only open during daylight hours. Why have a porch light on all night when you can have a cheap motion sensor turn it on only when you need it?

    Humorous exaggeration. Fighting LP does not mean turning off all lights. It means using smarter lighting (used only where/when needed, proper shielding, proper wattage bulbs).

    ok, I'm babbling. LP is a pet peeve for me. :smile:
  12. Apr 10, 2003 #11
    It is estimated that 100 million birds a year fly to their bloody death due to large towers, I haven't found anything on LIT towers, it would seem that if the tower was lit they would not run into it, but wires of lit towers does make sense. Just an interesting tid-bit on the subject:wink:
  13. Apr 10, 2003 #12
    How many missed meals by birds nesting in microwave antennas!
  14. Apr 10, 2003 #13
    That's ok we all know they stole the idea from one of our own... Jenn
  15. Apr 10, 2003 #14
    Fellow Members,
    If you think those locations are nice to view the sky, imagine this:
    being in the middle of the ocean where practically no pollution is present (I'm not really aware of where any pollution actually is) and using a telescope to view the celestials. I'm in the U.S. Navy, by the way. Unfortunately, I don't have a telescope for this, so I can't verify it, but I do know that on a cloudless night, I can see an uncountable number of stars. Just though I'd bring up my perfect location.
  16. Apr 11, 2003 #15


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    Heh. I just got out of the Navy. Its unreal what you can do with only a pair of binoculars on aft lookout in a completely dark sky 1000 miles from land. Have you tried the night vision goggles...?
  17. Apr 11, 2003 #16
    For clearest land based astronomy, Mauna Kea in Hawaii, or the Andes of Chile near the Atacama desert.
  18. Apr 13, 2003 #17


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    Thanks. I'll have to double check my statement.

    But many birds are attracted to such lighting. (e.g., the Audubon society raised concerns about the 9-11 "towers of light" memorial)
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