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An unidentified city photographed from the International Space Station.

EYES TO THE SKY: Space walk anniversary, better light for Massachusetts

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By Monday, Apr 15, 2019 Learning 3

April 15-28, 2019

Mount Washington — Astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped down the ladder of Apollo 11’s lunar module, “Eagle”; as his boot touched the surface of the Moon, he famously said, “A small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.” People have always looked up to the sky: by observing the Sun, Moon and stars, we become aware of the passage of time, the progress of the seasons, our location on the Earth and the grandeur and mystery of the universe to which we belong.

While the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 moon walk – and we are continually awed by the results of space exploration since – it is sobering to learn that in 85 percent of locations on Earth, only a few stars are visible when looking up to the sky at night. In many Berkshire towns, the sky is not completely veiled; in some rural areas, the Milky Way glows. But the pollution that blocks the view to space and disrupts biological functions in humans and wild nature, light pollution, is a growing threat.

Countryside Mars and Milky Way, the Milky Way extends above the distant hills into a starry sky. Its faint pinkish nebulae, cosmic rifts and rivers of dust are mingled with the pale, diffuse glow of starlight. APOD June 9, 2018. Published with permission. Photo: Jose Luis Hernandez Verdejo

In Massachusetts, the recently formed International Dark Sky chapter is supporting the bill (previous bills have been filed but not advanced) known as An Act Improving Outdoor Lighting and Increasing Dark Sky Visibility. Senate and House versions, S.1937 and H.2858, are the same. Read the bill at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S1937.

In previous posts I have given contact information for Sen. Adam Hinds, a co-sponsor of the bill, and Rep. Pignatelli, who is also in favor of it. The office of Sen. Hinds recommends that constituents express our vigorous support directly to the chairmen of the Joint Commitee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. They are Sen. Mike Barrett (617) 722-1572, Mike.Barrett@masenate.gov and Rep. Thomas Golden (617) 722-2263, Thomas.Golden@mahouse.gov.

Take a small step for better lights in Massachusetts. Build momentum for a leap that moves the measures in the bill, An Act Improving Outdoor Lighting and Increasing Dark Sky Visibility, into practice. The preferred address to send testimony is this one: Magdalena.Garncarz@mahouse.gov.

Informative interview with Kelly Beatty of the International Dark Sky Association. See it here or at https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2019/03/27/dark-sky-bill-on-the-horizon:


Background on Mass. light pollution bill in print and video https://www.boston.com/news/policy/2019/03/07/massachusetts-dark-sky-light-pollution-bill https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2019/03/27/dark-sky-bill-on-the-horizon

Text of Bill – https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S1937

Appreciation – Astronomy Picture of the Day – https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180609.html and https://theberkshireedge.com/eyes-to-the-sky-mars-peaks-this-week-seek-out-mars-now-brighter-than-jupiter/

View from space – https://leds-news.blogspot.com/2015/08/iss-astronauts-say-leds-are-making.html

Apollo 11 overview – https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo11.html
NASA 50th anniversary events – https://www.nasa.gov/specials/apollo50th/events.html

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3 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Richard M Allen says:

    Public safety trumps looking at the stars.

    1. susan p bachelder says:

      The devil is in the details. Great strides have been made in understanding how much and where to direct light for maximum safety for humanity and the planet without invoking a “trump” for anything. You can find new brochures on lighting regs now in the legislature at Sen. Hinds office or Egremont Town Hall.

  2. janet jensen says:

    National Grid has approached my small town (Monterey) and I assume other like ours with an offer of free retrofits of their existing streetlights with LEDs that are far too bright and too blue/white for this town (and would be prohibited under the new legislation.

    This is more than a matter of aesthetics: health, safety and environmental resilience are all at stake. (Note to previous commenter — more light is not equal to more safety, or even more visibility, especially for ageing eyes.) It is also becoming a rather urgent matter, as investments in poor lighting will be difficult and expensive to redo — especially as LEDs have such a long life.

    It is not easy for small towns to turn down what seems to be a free opportunity to save energy — but the devil is in the details. And it is hard to dispel the primordial fear some people have of the dark, along with the myth that more light will make them safer. That is why we rely on strong, evidence-based legislation such as the Act Improving Outdoor Lighting and Increasing Dark Sky Visibility, co-sponsored by Senator Adam Hinds and Representative Smitty Pignatelli.

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