Just Stargazing

My activity over the past several weeks has been slim to none with regards to astronomy and astrophotography.  The main culprit has been the weather, with a heinous amount of cloud cover week over week.  The few clear nights were unfortunately around the past Full Moon, making deep sky observations almost impossible.

Still, I have been checking out the stars when I can.  In the weeks leading up to the Fall time change, it was sufficiently dark in the mornings to see stars.  Notable was bright Sirius shining through even somewhat dense cloud cover.  It was wonderful to see Orion again in the West in the hour before dawn.  And now after the recent time change, I can see Orion rising around midnight above my trees blocking my East view.

Another notable in the sky is the Great Square of Pegasus.  It’s now in its prime viewing season in the mid-evenings.  And with Pegasus follows its neighboring constellation to the North, Andromeda.  And with Andromeda comes…the Andromeda Galaxy!  It’s just a faint blur for me through both binoculars and telescopes, but I hope this winter to try imaging it in several ways, to see if I can pick up any detail beyond its bright center.

Scanning further North, I also want to mention about imaging the star Algol in Perseus.  This was brought up in Scott’s Sky Watch all the way back in September.  About month ago, I did spend time locating Algol.  Now, weather permitting, I hope to take a few pictures of it on different days, and see if its color changes.

Lastly, a note on the topic of light pollution: while I did write down what I consider the core matters, I have not blogged about it much in many months.  I only want to mention that I have not forgotten about it, and in fact it is very much on my mind.  It may be months or even years before I revisit it again here, but I’m going to talk about it when the time is right.

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Thirty Theses on Light Pollution, 2017

(I) Light Pollution is pollution.

(II) Light Pollution is among the least-understood and least-recognized forms 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 has accumulated sparse evidence of the environmental impacts of Light Pollution.

(VII) The accumulated 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 mankind’s prime connection for wondering about the cosmos.

(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.

I don’t normally concluded my posts with “please share/retweet/reblog/etc.” requests, but if you feel better informed of and aware on the topic of light pollution, please forward this to your friends and neighbors.  Spreading knowledge about light pollution is the best strategy for eventually solving the problem!

No, President Trump, the Skies of Detroit and Nebraska Are Not the Same

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“And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator.”

– Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address, January 20th, 2017

If only this were true, Mr. President.

The night sky in the city of Detroit is far different from the night sky in the state of Nebraska.

The child of the plains will likely have a wonderful view of the universe on clear evenings.  He will wonder, and dream, and imagine.  He will think about his place in the cosmos.  He will ponder both philosophical and spiritual questions about the Almighty Creator.  His ability to see the night sky in its nearly-complete wondrous glory will provide him with opportunities to become a sound and thoughtful adult.

The child of urban sprawl will grow up seeing a far different sky.  Her childhood will be spent under a sickly, orange haze.  She will not look up and wonder, because there will be nothing in her night sky to dream about.  Chances are, the overbearing glare of her neighbor’s porch light or a simmering alley bulb will arrest her attention far more than anything up in the sky.  This is not a place to wonder, or dream, or ponder about life and God.  With the simple absence of a decent night sky comes lost opportunity and inspiration for this child trapped in an urban light prison.

Of course, the city and country skies will never be the same, but the tragedy of light pollution is that so much of it could be mitigated with cognizant planning and effort by all.  We are all victims of this least-understood form of pollution.  Contrary to photographs taken from orbit, it is aesthetically uninteresting.  While scientists are just beginning to document light pollution’s adverse effects, both we and all our living ecosystems depend on the quality of a proper night just as much as the radiance of the Sun at day.