Page 8 - October 5, 2022
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  OCTOBER 5, 2022                                                                                                                                                                                                                          OCTOBER 5, 2022  |  { 9 }

           Starless Night Skies
           Starless Night Skies

    Light pollution is robbing us of our “starry, starry nights,” yet there are lighting
            design changes that could open our skies back up to stargazing.
 NATURE AROUND US                                           by J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River

       s a young teenager I complained
       to my mother that I was having                                                   On October 20
 Atrouble seeing the chalkboard in
 school. It took weeks of begging to get her                                          and 21, if we have
 to overcome her vanity about her daugh-                                               cloudless nights,
 ter’s appearance and agree to schedule an
 eye exam for me. Wearing glasses opened                                               go to a dark sky        The majority of birds migrate in darkness.
 up a world that I had forgotten even exist-                                           near you to view        Brightly lit cities blot out stars and confuse
 ed. We lived near Union Lake in Millville                                                                     migrants, luring them into urban areas.
                                                                                                               Trapped in a windowed maze of city build-
 in a neighborhood without streetlights. As                                          the Orionid meteor        ings, they have fatal collisions, or circle about
 evening fell, suddenly the night sky took                                                  shower.            and die from exhaustion. PHOTO: PORTLAND
 on a renewed glory. Looking up at the                                                                         AUDUBON, PHOTO BY JURGE
 heavens my eyes filled with tears. As my
 nearsightedness had progressed, I had lost                                                                    it. (CU Maurice River has documented this
 sight of the stars.                   The Milky Way                                                           avian decline over the past 35 years.)
   I wept in sorrow for what I had been   as seen at Capitol Reef                                                Stars are gradually disappearing from
 missing for years and was now so clear.   National Park’s Chimney Rock, Utah.                                 view and younger generations don’t know
 There were tears of joy, too, for what I   Night skies such as this can be seen at                            what they’ve lost. A pair of glasses isn’t
 was seeing. I refused to go back inside the   International Dark Sky Parks established                        going to offer them a magical solution as it
                                       around the globe by citizen efforts. The International Dark
 house. It was as if I personally had redis-  Sky Association assists governing bodies with ordinances         did for me. The stars are still there but our
 covered the universe. I told anyone who   to protect night skies. PHOTO: JACOB W. FRANK FOR IDSA              ability to see them is changing, as light pol-
 would listen, “Just look at the stars!”                                                                       lution hampers our view of the heavens.
   I was lucky to have a friend named                                                                            Air pollution used to be the main cul-
 Steve Jublou. He was a Boy Scout who   or area. Many towns and cities have   ects. But the globes remain unchanged.   prit. I remember going to Pittsburgh as a
 loved the out-of-doors, stars, and Greek   adopted “shielded lighting” ordinances.   This scenario has repeated itself world-  child when coal was still burned to heat
 mythology. He described the hunter   But vigilance is needed on the part of land-  wide to the point where a quarter of the   houses and the factories manufactured
 Orion’s belt and the myth detailing Orion’s   use boards and city engineers to make sure   world’s land surface is now affected by   steel. The sky was blackened; on some
 adventures. He explained that because   developers are aware of and institute this   light pollution. And with each passing   days, a permanent dusk hung in the air.
 of this constellation’s placement on the   requirement. It’s as simple as selecting   generation people accept a new normal, in   The Environmental Protection Agency has
 celestial equator, it can be seen through-  new fixtures with hoods, though little has   this instance the increasing inability to see   done a wonderful job of improving our air
 out the world in the night sky. Even in   been done about replacing existing lights.   the heavens. A term has been coined for   quality; particulate is much less of a prob-
 high school it was obvious that his destiny   Cities and towns that have major tele-  this phenomenon—“shifting baseline syn-  lem, both for our lungs and for stargazing,
 would be to join the ranks of future sci-  scope installations take lighting ordinances   drome.” By way of example an old timer   than it was when I was young.
 ence teachers. His enthusiasm for the   very seriously. Since the 1980s Caltech and   used to tell me that ducks use to blacken   Many cities still remain famous for
 stars was profound and contagious.   Palomar Observatory have worked with   the sky on the Menantico during duck sea-  smog. The growing use of electric cars will
   Fred Schaaf was also a classmate; later   surrounding communities to minimize   son. I took his words to be hyperbole, but   greatly improve their situation. You may
 he would become one our country’s most   light pollution. Tucson, Arizona, is sur-  today I suspect they were the truth.   recall news-making photographs taken
 celebrated amateur astronomers, publish-  rounded by observatories and views pro-  I tell my grandnieces and nephews,   from cities around the world during the
 ing a host of books (13) on the heavens.   tecting night skies is a mandate.   “When things got cold the river would   pandemic lockdown. People posted before
   Today we are all being robbed of the   When I first moved to the river in   freeze nearly across, and if ducks were   and during photos and marveled at the
 views the night sky holds. Manmade light   1983 we could see the northern sky from   stones you could hop across the river on   clear skylines as cars and factories took
 from street lamps, parking lots, sports   our dock. Then a new car dealership   their backs.” Their new normal is a few   a timeout. It gave folks a new baseline to
 stadiums, prisons, LEDs, gas flames, car   put in lighting that blotted out the view.   hundred ducks where there were once   think about. But alas, we are creatures
 beams and the like, intended to illuminate   Later the City of Millville installed period   thousands, and that’s on a great day. They   of habit; hanging on to that moment and
 the earth, shine upwards and reflect down   lighting. It was stylish but the globes   see some ducks and think, “Cool.” I see   advocating for a cleaner tomorrow is dif-
 off particulates and moisture, so that see-  allowed light to shine upwards. The color   ducks and say, “Where have they all gone.”   ficult to do as the responsibilities of life
 ing the heavens has become impossible.   of the sky changed and the northern view   And ice? Don’t even get me started. So   whisk us away to our old selves.
   Shields, a simple design change involv-  of stars went away. Millville later adopt-  each generation establishes a new baseline   So how does light pollution impact the
 ing a shade or hood over the light source,   ed a shielded lighting ordinance advocat-  of lower numbers. You can’t conceive of   planet we live on—beyond the chance to
 can keep the light on the intended object   ed by CU Maurice River for future proj-  what you’re missing if you have never seen   see the Milky Way on a cloudless night
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