Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Blinded by Light

Of course, a cloudless night sky does not always guarantee you a view of the stars. The night sky is getting steadily more orange in this country, even in rural areas, destroying the beauty of the heavens. All because of the way we light our streets at night.

About six years ago I was staying with a friend of mine in the old East Germany, where the streets were only sparsely lit, if they were at all. One night was completely cloudless and there was no moon. After getting back to the house from a bar we went out into the garden and just lay gazing upwards. There were more stars visible than I think I had ever seen before. The Milky Way stretched across the sky, a great river of twinkling lights, and all of the normally visible constellations were magnitudes brighter and sharper. The beauty of it all took my breath away and I made the effort to remember it because I knew it would be a long time before I saw the stars as clearly again.

How hard can it be to use street-lighting more effectively? To ensure that the light produced goes down towards the street not up into the sky? Think of the money that could be saved by using external lights more efficiently.

Think of how beautiful the sky could be at night.

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