by Gene Allen
I live in an old folks home. Well, not really. It’s an “active adult living community” built by K Hovnanian in the early 2000s. It is riddled with obscene street lamps and blinding bollard post lights along walkways. For a while I maneuvered toward getting the street lamps changed out, but we are mired in some Machiavellian arrangement with PSE&G that even our attorneys are unwilling to try to unravel. And some resident is always complaining about the lack of light somewhere, as if we need more!
Anyway, there used to be a tree at the curb in front of my house that would shelter me somewhat from an overbearing street lamp, but the tree was feeble and has expired. While I gained a more complete view of the ecliptic from my driveway, there is now plenty enough light by which to read, all night long. My patio in back faces north and fortunately the walkway is not right on top of me. Those nasty bollard lights go off around midnight, if I stay up that late, and someone has attenuated the closest ones with black spray paint, thank you very much! Still, house and trees substantially restrict my sky back there, and in general I can observe more DSOs as well as the planets in front.
So, in order to keep from drowning in brilliance, I built a box. Isn’t that what everybody does? Lacking a giant stepladder by which to make measurements, I estimated, made a cardboard prototype first, and came close enough that it’s not worth making another. The photos show me installing the light shield and my attenuated but still shameful “observing field.” I’m incrementally getting my optical train finalized and trying out filters, so it’s not yet ready for prime time. Cherry Springs it ain’t, but EAA is enough for me, and it’s working!
Note from the editor: Curbing light pollution has become an existential necessity. We astronomers bear a unique responsibility towards the conservation of our environment, not just for our generation but for future generations of mankind. What makes us unique is our knowledge of the cosmos and the fact that there is only one planet — the Earth for us to inhabit in the vicinity. There is no planet B unless you believe Elon Musk will turn Mars habitable. So, it is for us to create awareness and take action. Below are links to Light Pollution Map, sample light ordinances, outdoor light ordinance and a presentation that you can freely use to impress upon neighbors, friends and local politicians to take immediate steps to save our only planet and its rich lifeforms.
Sample Light Ordinances provided by Rex Parker
Outdoor Light Ordinances adopted by the Township of Hopewell, Mercer County, New Jersey. Provided by Rex Parker.
Light Pollution Presentation To view it, open link in a new window and download it. You can save and use the presentation to urge people and local politicians to take sensible steps to curb light pollution.