National Dark Sky Week: April 23 - April 30, 2006
"Astronomy enthusiasts across the country will showcase the starry night during National Dark-Sky Week, celebrated this year from April 23rd to 30th. Individuals and businesses are encouraged to dim their outdoor lighting to bring out the beauty of the night sky." National Dark-Sky Week Foundation/International Dark-Sky Association press release.
Light Pollution and Astronomy
You've heard of water pollution, air pollution and even noise pollution but what do you know about light pollution? Light pollution is when night lighting is not properly directed or shielded leading to invasive light glow that drowns out the stars and the average person's ability to see the beautiful Milky Way.
At first glance it may not seem like a big deal but light pollution is a growing problem all over the world as exemplified by Chad Ellington of the Pegasus Astronomical Society in a report of how their Night Sky Network event was affected by light pollution: "With the heavy light pollution present in town, we were limited in what we could show." By having to fight the light pollution in their areas, amateur astronomers are having a harder time showing off the beauty of the Universe to the public.
Ronald Kunkel of the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society has been working to educate the public on how everyone is affected by light pollution "Our presentation included segment on light pollution - not just a problem for astronomers."
Not Just a Problem For Astronomers
The threat of light pollution is not limited to astronomy: light pollution wastes energy and money; it can create safety/driving hazards, it can harm the life cycles of plants and animals as well as affect human health.* By raising awareness and asking everyone to educate themselves about safe and effective lighting, amateur astronomers are hoping to help in the fight to reclaim the night.
*Science News (Vol. 169, No. 1, p. 8: "Bright Lights, Big Cancer: Melatonin-depleted blood spurs tumor growth.").