The Stark Contrast of Old and New Bulbs – Light Pollution

I have tried to swear off further posts on light pollution, feeling my prior writings suffice for the time being.  However, this week I walked into an empirical example that I simply could not ignore.

While getting off the train one night, I was on a section of platform that had recently been renovated.  It had received a new walking surface, and the lamp light bulbs had been replaced with newer LEDs.  Within a few paces of one of these lamps with the new bulb was a lamp with an older bulb, closer to the parking lot.  I assumed this was a sodium bulb, or at least it exhibited the characteristics of the old sodiums.

I was able to take a picture of both lamps from the same location, posted here above.  On the left is the old sodium (-like) bulb, and on the right is the new LED bulb.  From my vantage point that evening I quickly observed differences in experiences from being under the light of both.

First, both lights were overall too bright, and they were unshielded.  You can see how the lamp design does very little to restrict the light towards its intended targets.  While the light mostly heads towards the ground, it disperses in all directions, including up.  There are probably at least a hundred of these lights throughout the train station area.

Aside from these issues, all else being equal, here is what I observed, first on the sodium/older bulb:

  • Had a softer glow.  I could look in the direction of the bulb and not feel irritated.
  • Does a far better job of bathing and immersing its surroundings in light.  The entire area around the lamp definitely looked “lit up”.
  • For night, it was relatively easy to make out all the objects around the lamp.
  • The color of the lamp distorts the natural color of the surroundings.

For the new LED bulb:

  • Projected a very harsh brightness.  Cannot comfortably look in the direction of the bulb for very long.
  • The ground around the lamp looked very dark compared to the area around the sodium bulb.  I could definitely see everything but I also felt like my eyes were straining to see the area.
  • The color was more neutral/white than the sodium, but this was offset by the weaker luminous feel.
  • In my peripheral vision, the bulb was distracting.  I’ve noticed this while driving, too.

Any energy savings of these newer LED bulbs are offset and nullified by their degraded functionality.  They seem to be very good at pinpoint brightness but are unable to luminate their surroundings effectively.  On top of that, they are grating on the eyes.

Ultimately, any bulbs (except blues) should be fine for nighttime function so long as they are properly shielded.  I have seen and walked under “dark sky” lights and they are fine for their intended purpose.  These accompanied with motion sensors and smart electronics would go a very long way towards helping reduce light pollution.

The No-More-Excuses Moon

Click for full-sized image.

November 17th, 2019, 12:10 a.m. local time

It’s mostly clear, and just a tad below freezing.  It’s the middle of the weekend.  The latter-stage Moon is high above.  Do I have any excuses not to take a stab at photographing it?

No chill wind, no snow falling, and a mostly clear sky.  I knew I had to give this one a try!

The only downside was a slight haze over the Moon, but I believe I filtered it out in post-processing.  This was taken with my DSLR camera on tripod.

Image settings for reference:

  • f/5.6
  • 1/250 sec exposure
  • ISO 100
  • 300mm lens

Thirty Theses on Light Pollution, 2020 Edition


I have scarcely written about light pollution since my first edition of this list two years ago.  That’s in part because the original theses covered everything I wish to say on the topic, for now.  This update is very minor in form, with just a few small changes throughout.

Light pollution unfortunately continues unabated, with the threat of ever newer and bizarrer ways concocted to ruin our common view of Space.

There is no obvious or quick solution.  I hope this list helps to frame the matter for you, and perhaps will assist you in discussing the topic with others.

(I) Light Pollution is pollution.

(II) Light Pollution is possibly the least-understood and least-recognized form of pollution.

(III) Most people do not know what Light Pollution is.

(IV) Light Pollution distorts the Earth’s natural night sky.

(V) Light Pollution’s distortion on the Earth’s night sky, by extension, distorts the Earth’s natural environments.

(VI) Science continues to accumulate evidence of the environmental impacts of Light Pollution.

(VII) The scientific evidence to-date is insufficient to awaken the general population to the existence of Light Pollution and its impact on Earth’s environments.

(VIII) Light Pollution is a recent phenomenon in human history.

(IX) Light Pollution is artificial.

(X) Moonlight is not Light Pollution, but part of the Earth’s natural environment that evolved over billions of years.

(XI) Humans and most non-nocturnal animals have difficulty sleeping under artificial light, preferring the dark of night.

(XII) Light Pollution directly inhibits terrestrial stargazing and other astronomical pursuits.

(XIII) Light Pollution lessens children’s curiosity about the night sky, stunting their desire to learn and imagine.

(XIV) Light Pollution severs our visual conduit of the cosmos from Earth.

(XV) The intended direction of nearly all artificial night lighting is down.

(XVI) Most artificial light illuminates in all directions (down, up, sides).

(XVII) Artificial light that illuminates outside of its intended range wastes energy.

(XVIII) Artificial light that illuminates outside of its intended range may be an encroachment onto surrounding lands and properties.

(XIX) Light Pollution is caused by artificial illumination of the night sky.

(XX) Light Pollution will never be eliminated completely from civilized locations, but it can be greatly mitigated.

(XXI) Light Pollution can be reduced with no impact to quality of life and security.

(XXII) Light Pollution can be significantly reduced by shielding all outdoor lighting to focus illumination on the intended ground target.

(XXIII) Shielded lights make nighttime visibility easier by reducing harsh bulb glare.

(XXIV) Light Pollution can be significantly reduced through the use of timers and motion sensors.

(XXV) All commercial and home decorative lighting should point downward with bulbs or diodes shielded on their sides.

(XXVI) Most Light Pollution comes from street lights.

(XXVII) Newer LED lights contribute far more to Light Pollution than the older, traditional sodium streetlamps.  This is because newer LED diodes blast light across almost the entire visible light spectrum, whereas the older sodium lamps emitted light at a very narrow yellow band within the visible spectrum.

(XXVIII) Newer LED lights are OK for outdoors but should be low-intensity, shielded, and ideally triggered by motion sensors.

(XXIX) Blue light is the worst light for outdoors because the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs blue spectrum light the easiest.  Think of the daytime blue sky!

(XXX) Images from space of the Earth’s ground illuminated at night were once evidence of progress, but now should be viewed as evidence of our collective ignorance about Light Pollution and not understanding how to lessen its impacts on the Earth’s environments.

Rising Moon Late Afternoon, Early November

Click for full-sized image.

November 5th, 2019, 4:15 p.m. local time

I will spare you the verbose compensatory reasons for not posting recently, only to say though the weather has been flat out lousy.  During the brief openings of sky, I have been tracking the Great Square of Pegasus overhead, with a quick eye towards the vicinity of Andromeda higher still.  I wish I could capture the Andromeda Galaxy like shown over at Cosmic Focus.

Today was a clear but very cold day.  I snapped this image of the past-Quarter Moon rising over Lake Michigan in the later afternoon.  With the recent time change (read all about it here at the Explaining Science blog), night starts encroaching by 4:30 p.m., which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t so cold.