I'm a dark sky advocate, not a dark ground advocate

Sep 15

Written by:
9/15/2014 7:34 PM  RssIcon

I've often commented on dark sky initiatives when they are highlighted in the media. One thing I've noticed is that some people who comment seem to be under the impression that people who advocate for dark skies are for complete, total, utter darkness.

Please allow me to disabuse you of that notion right here and now. 

When dark SKY advocates are asking people to aim LIGHTS downward, we are not saying, "turn off all lights and make everything pitch black." Now are there times when there is still overlighting? Yes. Are there many area where we could use less light than is being sent out from fixtures and bulbs? Yes also. 

Here's the thing: Dark SKY advocate means just that - don't light up the sky, it doesn't DO anything useful, either for function, form or safety. It's literally wasted light and energy. Sky glow from uplightingNow, that's not the only reason to avoid it - skyglow is a problem that causes migratory bird issues, sleep related disorders when it's bright enough, actual air pollution, and other problems. But there's almost never a good reason to light up the sky - the occasional flag and safety lights for airplanes, radio towers, skyscrapers and temporary construction work excepted (I may be missing a handful of other things, but probably not much).

And the fact is this: You, as a human being, need darkness for sleep. Sure, the full Moon looks bright. But at 0.1 - 0.3 lux of light, humans long ago evolved to sleep just fine with that much light. You body did not, however, evolve (nor is it evolving fast enough) to sleep with 30x to 100x that amount that the typical streetlight provides streaming into many bedrooms (and even higher levels of illumination like in the "Not this" light above at the top of this post). 

Be a dark sky advocate. We can light the ground. But if you're not sure how much light is enough, nature provided us the answer:

Full moonlight

Humans can see remarkably well with full moonlight levels of light. Use that as a guide if you do need to light up some area of ground. It will allow humans and animals to sleep as intended, and will reduce skyglow and other harmful effects from light pollution and light trespass. Plus, it's just a good idea. 

Aim light right, sleep better at night.  

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The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.