Q&A: Sky Lights Slogan

Question: What’s with that slogan of yours, about “The only good night lights are billions of miles away”? You got something against using night lights? — APS, Phoenix, AZ

Answer: Why, yes I do. And thank you for asking. You see, I’ve been an amateur astronomer for 40+ years now, and I’ve seen the quality of the night sky degrade significantly over that time. Part of the problem is they keep making more people, and that requires more homes with more lights. There’s not much that can be done about that, but there are some things that can be done about the lights.

The first point I need to make is this: There are a lot of lights that waste energy by beaming their rays straight up into the sky. The satellite image above proves this to be the case. With few exceptions (airport runway beacons, or spotlights illuminating monuments, for example), lights at night are intended to illuminate the ground — not the sky.

Properly shielded lighting fixtures direct their light where needed and do not pollute the sky with stray photons.  Building codes have been changing to address this issue, requiring shielded fixtures and wattage restrictions. We are losing our view of the night sky, folks. Building codes help, but don’t eliminate the problem. To learn more about what can be done, visit the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) website at: http://www.darksky.org/.

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