Sunday, January 13, 2008

Valuing the night sky

I've mentioned this before, but was reminded of it again last night as I dropped off to sleep with the Big Dipper's handle clearly in view: One of the things I treasure most about living in Amador County is the dark night sky.

We can still see the stars, planets, star clusters, constellations, meteor showers and the occasional comet. That night view is as valuable to me as anything I see during the day.

But in many parts of the country, people are losing their night sky because of the glare from homes and commercial development. It doesn't have to be that way. Planners need to learn that it's where and how lights are installed, not more of them, that makes people safe. And homeowners need to consider how many lights they really need, and think about how their lights affect the dark sky we all share.

The latest Sierra town to confront the issue of light pollution is Truckee. Several articles about how Truckee is proposing to preserve its dark night sky are found on the Skykeepers website. They're interesting reading. That website includes a great deal of related information, including a page on how you can help keep our night sky dark.

One basic thing you can do is speak up for the dark night sky when new projects are proposed. Lights can be strategically placed and properly shielded.

As Skykeeper Jack Sales says about losing the dark night sky, "The night sky is a cultural resource that transcends time and place."

For more, see the website of the International Dark-Sky Association.

And if you'd like to receive e-mail alerts about what's up in the sky at night, see the website.


Anonymous said...

Having had an interest in astronomy since I was young, and now with a nice sized telescope, which I unfortunately find too little time to use, I completely agree with your comments on preserving dark skies as much as is feasible. That is why, in the projects we are proposing for Plymouth, we will use lighting that is consistent with avoiding unnecessary illumination of the sky. --Bob Reeder

Katherine said...

Good for you, Bob. It's good to know we agree about a thing or two. Maybe you can suggest adding night sky protection to the new county general plan.

It's just too bad we disagree about your basic business: converting ranches to large lot suburban subdivisions.