The Loss of the Night Sky

Paul Bogard is the author of “The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light” recently wrote an article for Bloomberg News that appeared in the Star Ledger on March 3.

He notes that beginning in July, Paris will require that building lights be turned off no later than 1 AM on the outside of buildings and an hour after employees leave on the inside of the buildings. Besides saving energy (750,000 homes worth) he notes the grand effect that this will have on helping to reduce light pollution.

Most people do not think of light as a form of pollution unless someone is shining a light directly in their eyes, but light pollution is prevalent in most of the northeast and certainly around the world in urban areas.

Mr. Bogard notes that too much light blinds us with “disability glare.” In other words, we can’t see beyond the light and thus we are actually unable to see what is going on past the glare.

He also notes that the use of light for security tends to be a myth.

I find that light pollution is all too prevalent in the building profession. The best term that I can think of is “building envy” on the part of architects and designers. They seem to have to say that their building is so much bigger and better than the one nearby that it needs to be lit up for all to see.

The result is that eight in ten children born in the U.S. today will never see the Milky Way galaxy due to light pollution.

Milky Way Galaxy

This is a shame. We can have light, reduce our need for energy and still have the night sky if we simply design with reducing light pollution in mind.

Dark sky fixtures direct light down and prevent glare in other directions. The result is that you can get the light security that we feel we need and reduce unwanted light at the same time.

In our neighborhood I had some success in this area by simply asking a local home builder to put dark sky fixtures on the outside of a home that he was building. I am very happy that he was so willing to work with me on this. It turns out that the people who bought the house feel a need to leave their outside lights on all night long. If the house did not have dark sky fixtures we would have flood lights in our yard all night.

I have used dark sky fixtures in all new applications and modified existing fixtures to reduce glare. The effect has been dramatic. Now I can still see the stars, not be blinded by the light (apologies to Bruce) and still see when the dogs go outside at night.


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