Light pollution is no dark matter
From historic sites, shops and wineries, to caves, canoeing and spacious, green parks, Harrison County has plenty to offer everyone.
But one of the most under-appreciated treasures of this county can’t be seen until the sun goes down.
While we’re still considered in a ‘light dome’ provided by our neighbors in Louisville, the night sky here is truly magnificent. The further west one gets away from the dome, the better the viewing gets. The Louisville Astronomical Society even constructed an observatory in Crawford County a few years ago.
Anytime my parents come here for an evening visit from Clarksville, my mother nearly breaks her neck looking up at the stars as she makes her way to her car. My stepfather hasn’t seen his telescope for several years, not since I pilfered it to view the stars and galaxies here.
In Clarksville, which is nearly ground zero for light pollution in the Kentuckiana area, only the brightest celestial objects can be seen. Here, planets, galaxies, double-stars, Iridium satellites, the International Space Station and even the space shuttle ‘ when it’s aloft ‘ can be viewed whenever the sky is clear.
But since the commercial development around the Old Capital Centre many years ago, those objects have been fading. Actually, the stars and such haven’t faded. Our inability to contain wasted light has started washing out evening sky.
On June 7, amateur astronomer Mark Steven Williams of Elizabeth will go before the county commissioners once again to try and get a lighting ordinance adopted here.
I hope he succeeds.
Light trespass is similar to sky pollution in the sense that it results in the illumination of areas where light is not wanted. Outdoor lighting also wastes energy ‘ more than $1 billion annually in the United States alone ‘ in situations where the amount of lighting used exceeds what is reasonably required.
The light pollution issue isn’t just for astronomers. It’s for everyone who has had to cover up a window to keep a security light from spilling into their bedroom or is distracted by the upward light that comes from commercial development.
Curing light pollution isn’t that difficult or costly to do, and it saves money (hey, we’re all about that) while also reducing glare. Folks like Williams and other amateur astronomers appreciate that.
For instance, low-pressure sodium lights can replace existing fixtures for most streets, parking lots and other locations. Yard blasters, a term Williams uses to describe backyard security lighting, can be fitted with a relatively inexpensive fixture that directs light where it’s intended. Billboards can be designed where the light reflects down instead of up.
Robert Roy Britt, a senior science writer, said, ‘On a clear dark night away from city lights, the star-spangled heavens can create an overwhelming sense of infinity. Seemingly countless points of light, so far away, urge one to contemplate the insignificance of a lone planet amid the incomprehensible breadth of the universe.’
I believe we can reclaim the stars, but not without the commissioners’ help.