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Light Pollution in the Spotlight

Read the letter or jump to sign the petition.

Amateur astronomers, more than most, realize that artificial skyglow is slowly robbing us of the beauty of the night sky. But licking light pollution has not been easy.

For two decades the International Dark-Sky Association has waged a campaign to raise awareness about Public Enemy #1, astronomically speaking. There have been some modest, hard-won successes over the years. For example, lighting specialists and their companies have finally tooled up to make a variety of night-sky-friendly fixtures available to contractors and the general public. Also, hundreds of towns and a few states have enacted laws that require well-shielded lighting for new developments.

Yet drawing widespread attention to light pollution, especially at the state and federal level, has been difficult. As you might expect, Sky & Telescope has always supported the IDA's efforts, but coverage was spotty elsewhere in the news media.

My, how things have changed!

Over the summer, IDA teams presented the case against light pollution to both House and Senate staffers in Washington, and a bipartisan coalition of 11 House members sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency's administrator requesting action on the situation.

And the past year has seen a veritable explosion of light-pollution stories. The salvo began last year with a feature article in The New Yorker, followed by an editorial in the Boston Globe.

Light pollution cover story
National Geographic Society

The pace picked up over this past summer: an in-depth story in July 25th's Wall Street Journal, a prominent op-ed piece in September 23rd's Boston Globe, and an October 7th editorial in the New York Times.

And, finally, the pièce de résistance: the cover story of National Geographic's November 2008 issue. The article is grippingly titled "The End of Night" — to which I might add: "Light Pollution — It's Not Just About Astronomers Any More."

But astronomers are still key allies in this fight, and now it's your turn to help: participate in the Great Worldwide Star Count from now through November 3rd — and become a member of the IDA.

Posted by Kelly Beatty, October 21, 2008


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