Be a considerate neighbor: Reduce
Shield all your outside lights downward (or turn them off completely)
and enjoy the beautiful, starry night sky.
Save our skies
Well, it's that time of year again. Everyone will be outside enjoying
the warm summer evenings. Many will be trying to enjoy the magnificent
sights in our night sky.
Unfortunately, as more and more people move out of the big city,
they bring their bright city lights with them. Yes, it is dark out
here. That is one of the big attractions for living outside the
city where you can actually see the stars.
One of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sights available to
mankind is our view of the universe under a dark sky.
Unfortunately, we have taken this wondrous sight for granted. Slowly
but surely, the stars are disappearing. If we do not do anything
to curb the growth of light pollution, even the rural areas will
be unable to see but a few stars.
Not too many years ago, the once commonplace sight of the Milky
Way galaxy stretched overhead. Today, over 90 percent of the population
has never seen this sight from their own backyards. This happened
because of badly located lights, poorly chosen fixtures, and the
use of excessively bright lights. The awe and wonder of the universe
is being lost for the younger generations.
Bob Mizon, director of the British Astronomical Association Campaign
for Dark Skies, says in an article from the CfDS Web site (www.dark-skies.org):
“For three million years, the human race has been able to
look skywards on clear nights, and wonder at the starry vault, crossed
by the Milky Way (our own galaxy seen from inside), the slowly moving
planets and the occasional flash of a meteor plunging through the
atmosphere high above. These sights have been, since about 1950,
gradually taken away from us by the threatening glow of wasted light,
escaping from poorly aimed and often over-bright artificial lamps,
to be scattered by airborne particles and aerosols. Over great cities,
towns and even small villages, light pollution robs us, in the last
millisecond of its journey, of light which may have traveled for
hundreds, thousands or even millions of years to reach our planet.
Are we cutting ourselves off from the direct experience of the rest
of the universe?”
In Sandoval County, the rural skies are becoming filled with all
types of lights. Of course the largest source is Albuquerque. The
light dome over the city blots out most of the stars from the southern
horizon to about thirty degrees above the horizon. Rio Rancho's
expansion west of Bernalillo is starting to fill that portion of
the sky with a blinding light dome. If you look to the north, Santa
Fe is also producing a light dome cutting a swath of stars in the
northeastern sky. And the bright swirling lights from the Hollywood
Casino are evident many nights shining upward through its own small
Private homes are becoming a big part of the problem. Many have
added more and more exterior high-power lighting. The worst offenders
include floodlights pointed out, not down, mercury vapor and sodium
vapor “street lamps,” and quartz halogen lights. But
those with standard unshielded lights also cause problems. If these
people are so afraid of the dark, perhaps they should return to
the safe confines of the well-lit big city and leave the dark-night-loving
inhabitants with their view of the stars.
As we move into the twenty-first century, a valuable and beautiful
part of our heritage is being taken away from us. For the first
time in history, vast numbers of the human population are being
denied a view of the night sky by poorly designed and badly aimed
lighting of various kinds. Urban sky glow now pollutes nearly all
vestiges of the night sky in the eastern half of America and the
West Coast. The middle of the United State is also rapidly losing
its view of the sky.
Is there any hope of regaining nature's grandest free show? That
depends upon the citizens of the nation, who must demand that the
night sky be protected. By using downward-pointing lights, shields,
and the minimum amount of light needed, we can stop the spread of
light pollution and preserve the stars for the next generation.
So, what can you do to help prevent light pollution? Simple. Turn
off your lights. If you must have outdoor lights on, use properly
shielded fixtures and down-pointing lights. If the bulb can be seen
below the opaque horizontal shield, the fixture is not properly
shielded. Try not to use street-type lights, halogen bulbs, or floodlights.
If you must use them, shield them and point them toward the ground,
where you want the light anyway. Just a few simple steps can save
both the night sky and electricity costs.
You can get more information from www.dark-skies.org
THE PLANETS AND MOON
• Mercury reappears low in the west after sunset.
• Venus rises around 4:00 a.m. in the east and provides a
bright spectacle in the predawn hours. The Moon joins Venus in the
morning sky on June 22.
• Mars can be found in the west after sunset.
• Jupiter will be high overhead after sunset
• Saturn is in the evening sky near Mars, low in the east.
• Check out Saturn as it overtakes Mars during the first of
the month, culminating on June 17, as the two planets pass. Then
watch for the Moon, Mars, Saturn, and Mercury to form a nice grouping
after sunset from June 25 through the end of the month.
• The Moon is full on June 11 and new on June 25.
If you have a question, comment, or suggestion
for Charlie, e-mail him at email@example.com.
Stargazing in the Manzanos
The Albuquerque Astronomical Society and the Sandia Ranger District
will cohost an evening of free public stargazing in the Manzanos
on Saturday, June 17, at Oak Flat Picnic Area.
Other 2006 event dates in this popular Saturday evening stargazing
series are July 29, August 19, and September 16.
The dark skies of the East Mountains and the large telescopes of
TAAS astronomers together provide great views of planets, as well
as more elusive deep-sky objects, such as galaxies, nebulae, and
Observing begins at sunset, weather permitting, and is suitable
for all ages. Picnic facilities are available for those who would
like to come early, and adjacent parking is available. Alcoholic
beverages and pets are not allowed in the telescope viewing area.
To get there, take NM Highway 337 nine miles south of the Tijeras
exit on I-40 and follow the signs to Oak Flat and Juniper Loop.
For information and a map, visit www.taas.org
or call 254-TAAS.