Morse Code for the ISS. Light Pollution News.
Daylon Burt, Host of Astro Escape.
Scott Morgan, Assistant Park Manager of the Hills Creek Park Complex – part of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
We have this article from the Arizona Daily Sun, “A day in space: Look no further than Flagstaff for your cosmos-themed day trip.,” which will start you off on a caffeinated start from Macy’s European Coffee House to head over to the Meteor Crater, then to the Barringer Space Museum, then to Sunset Crater, and Cinder Lake Crater Fields, followed by an evening at Lowell Observatory and possibly a stop at Dark Sky Brewing along the way!
Not to be shown up, the Matador Network ran this fantastic piece, “11 Dark Sky Airbnbs in Utah Perfect for Stargazing.” You can choose from a beautiful convertible A-frame house complete with plenty of windows and a hot tub, to you know, indulge in your starry sky experience. Or how about this, a two-bedroom mountain getaway with a roof deck for enjoying the milky way?! Or what about an earthen home near Goosenecks State Park and the Rainbow Bridge National Monument?
I’m sure if the night sky doesn’t shock and awe you, the cleaning fees on those AirBnbs most certainly will!
But wait, there’s more!
Have you ever wanted to find the perfect stargazing campsite? I know I always want to! Well, you’re in luck! HipCamp is unveiling their “Dark Sky Map” overlay for campers who are looking for just that, the darkest places to camp!
And not to belabor the point, but it really does feel like we’re in the middle of a huge Astro-tourism trend. A new Survey finds increase in first-time Big Bend visitors,” and “most are now staying outside the park.” This one comes to us from Travis Bubenik of Marfa Public Radio.
It’s boomtime at Big Bend, whereby 70% of respondents to a survey, preferred to stay outside the park, bringing a spike in short-term rentals with them. The spike is so high that it has local officials scared that they can’t keep track of all of the new rentals!
What’s driving this boom? A “standout data point,” stargazing!
“We’ve been saying for years now that our starry skies are a hugely important part of the Big Bend experience, and we have good data to back that up,” per Sara Allen Colando, a Brester County Commissioner.
Big Bend gained the International Dark Sky Reserve designation in 2022 with the hopes of boosting tourism.
Well, Scott, this next one will definitely ring true to you. “2 Million Acres, 8 Forests, It’s all in the Pennsylvania Wilds.” From Brian Whipkey of Go Erie.
I can truly say, some of my favorite memories of this neck of the woods include backpacking down the West Rim Trail in the fall or backpacking the Black Forest Trail in a monsoon. But there’s also the Forest Cathedral at Cook Forest, I know just south of here in the Hammersly Wild Area, there’s some remaining old growth that we visited last year.
Then of course, if you’re not a hunter, nearly everyone in Pennsylvania is, if not familiar personally with it, seems to generally know of it, Cherry Springs State Park, where we are today. And that’s ok, even if Whipkey doesn’t truly understand the purpose of “red lights,” as they’re not to eliminate light pollution, but rather provide visibility without eroding night vision.
Scott, what has been the DCNR’s take on Cherry Springs? Does the state view this as a flagship park? Other states, namely West Virginia, appear to be going all in on marketing their dark skies. Do skies at all resonate with Harrisburg?
Our next article, well it’s really a one-hour video, comes to us from PBS. The video, “Northern Nights, Starry Skies,” begins with Travis Novitsky, of the Grand Portage Reservation, connecting the brilliance of the night sky, a feeling I think we’ve all felt, with something few of us have felt, Native American heritage and spirituality.
According to the video, constellations are a way of having the “stars connect us between the physical world and the spiritual world.”
For instance, the Dakota (Lakota) tribes recognize what contemporary mythology calls “the Big Dipper” as the Seven Star Fire Nations of the Dakota/Lakota people. The Dakota people built burial mounds by rivers to aid the deceased in ascending to the river in the sky, what we would call, “The Milky Way.” And further, the cottonwood tree, complete with its white cotton, bridges the gap between the earth and the stars.
I don’t want to ruin this video for you. I highly recommend that you watch this film. Just a teaser, those burial mounts I just spoke about, well they can be used to accurately predict eclipses every 18-19 years. And the constellation Pegasus is really a moose!
Is lighting the night up under the guise of safety and vanity a worthy reason to extinguish cultural night sky heritage?
Staying with the spiritual connection, an interesting piece from Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News, an Evangelical Christian network, “Light Pollution and Creation Care.”
I don’t know about you guys, but I found that Kelsey Reed and Jonathan Boes did a wonderful job objectively evaluating the topic of Light Pollution. Namely, in regard to how a Christian should view and understand the situation.
In this podcast, the hosts utilize the SOAR method – Survey, Observing, Analysis, and Response, to deconstruct the issue of light pollution from a Christian standpoint. One of the biggest takeaways I found came down to how one should respond, namely “love of neighbor, and also love of the world,” suggesting personal responsibility for installing lighting fixtures that spread light trespass into your neighbor’s property.
There are a lot of takeaways in their episode, but the main takeaway is an ecological and spiritual (in this case Christian) connection to the world that God (or the prior piece, the Creator), created.
Ok, moving to some quick hits.
Keeping with the cultural-religious theme, the Maori New Year rises this July. The new year occurs when Matariki (known in Western societies as Pleadies), rises during the first new moon. Not to add confusion, but the brightest star of Matariki is also called Matariki, the mother of the other stars in the cluster. See New Zealanders to Celebrate Maori New Year in July.
And returning back to Minnesota for a second, according to Dan Kraker of MPR, DNR to rewrite mining rules to prevent noise and light pollution in Boundary Waters. The key takeaway here being that, among other issues at hand, the MN Department of Natural Resources will be writing new guidance regarding noise and light pollution for mining activities in the area.
Hey, did you hear? South Tahoe is beginning work to make lights “Dark Sky Compliant.” Kevin Sheridan of KOLO 8. The city plans to update 214 light fixtures along US 50 into 2200 Kelvin LED fixtures.
I’ve stated previously that now is the most innovative time ever for car headlights. Audi plans to take this to the next level by installing OLED rear lights complete with four different rear light signatures to choose from.
OLEDs, not just for my laptop apparently!
Here’s something that affects rural America! New Study Shows Urban Lighting Disrupts Rural Insects, Louise Fabiani from Sierra.
This is similar to a study we reported a couple of months back. In short, very low – even what we would consider dim levels of light, appeared to affect moth dormancy.
Fabiani goes on to point out that insects historically appeared in “large, conspicuous groups, such as clouds of mosquitoes or midges on a hot summer night.” And that simply isn’t the case anymore.
The insect apocalypse is causing declines up the food web in swallows and flycatchers. Insects also aid plant life by regulating pests and nutrient cycles.
Fabiani notes that there are places trying to minimize light’s impact on the insect population, namely dark-sky communities.
One such example of this comes to us from another article, Sustainable Landscapes Sustainable Places Dark Skies Project, whereby Lisa Baker of the Welsh Business News & News from Wales describes eight “designated landscape” areas that are all working jointly to reduce light pollution with the explicit goal to benefit biodiversity.
Scott, this feels like something in your wheelhouse. What’s the temperature of the DCNR on light pollution being an actual pollutant?
Research Article of the Month: Global disruption of coral broadcast spawning associated with artificial light at night from Nature Communications.
Man, in the 21st Century, corals get no relief!
In contrast to a prior study, “Breakdown in Spawning Synchrony,” it’s been found that light pollution, not solely water temperature, appears to trigger early spawning in coral. In the study, it’s found that corals may be spawning between one to three days closer to the full moon in coastal areas with artificial light at night. Essentially, ALAN disrupts the timing of reproduction, further reducing the probability of fertilization and survival. It’s surmised that Artificial Light at Night may confuse coral by mimicking the full moon.
The study itself appears to be the first step to better understanding ALAN’s role in coral reproduction. It recognizes that further research is needed to directly parse out the cause and effect of ALAN versus spawning timetables, and suggests greater understanding is needed on the viability of reproduction under ALAN.
A few more quick hits this month.
Don’t sweat the numbers on the street lights. Evidently, there’s a meme going around telling folks that the street light numbers are mRNA codes. No, unfortunately, they are not.
You gotta love this. Very cool news out of Chaffee County Colorado.
Vicki Genfan, of Guitar Player Magazine fame, performed to help generate buzz around the Friends of Browns Canyon’s work to ascertain a Dark Sky Park certification. Genfan plans to compile a new album “inspired by and recorded in” national monuments, including Browns Canyon.
A new housing development in Rennington, England has residents fuming. They fear the new development, which initially planned to install five streetlights, will ruin the rustic character and dark skies of Rennington, a village in the Northeast of England.
Per Sarah Darling in the article, “The number of street lights collectively…deny all residents a dark sky for which Northumberland is renowned.” However, some regulatory entanglements may see the street lights installed much to the chagrin of residents.
Ph.D. candidate Emma Louden wants other astrophysicists to cross-pollinate with the space industry. Louden presents the case via a blog article in Astrobites. We all know that the space economy is just warming up. Among her justification, skill and scientific interest alignments seem like a no-brainer crossover. One thing Exoplanet Emma didn’t discuss was the impact of satellites on earth-based astronomy. Louden gives the impression that astronomers do not natively interface outside of their discipline, which if true, looks to be the root cause of some of the Low Earth Orbit business proposals we’re seeing as of late.
There are two places in the world you can see a moonbow and this KY state park is one. Have you ever heard of a moonbow? This is pretty cool! There are only a handful of places in the world where you can see these. Those being Victoria Falls, the Isle of Skye, Hawaii, and, I bet you wouldn’t have guessed, Kentucky.
Moonbows form much the same way as a rainbow, just fainter due to the moon’s reflective light. Moonbows only occur on the three days around the full moon. Due to this faintness, a camera is necessary in order to extract full saturation.
So there you have it Daylon, make your next mission a trip to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park.
Moving on. This next one comes to us from Martin Greenacre of the Connexion, “French towns introduce ‘smart’ street lights which locals can turn on.”
Now this is really interesting. In France, energy conservation has led municipalities to turn off street lights at night. Many folks expressed feelings of insecurity without the street light. To remedy both the feeling of safety and the town’s need to save money, Olivier Bozzetto [Oliviee Bozzet-to] devised a compromise allowing individual users to activate street lights for 15 minutes at a time based on their GPS location.
Is this truly smart lighting at its best? Or do either of you foresee pending problems with it?
WWU used to have ballooning amber streetlights line its walkways. No more. Whereas before, light shot out aimlessly, the new top LED fixtures angle and aim the light directly where it’s needed – on roadways and paths. The lights will use warmer temperatures, I was not able to ascertain the actual temperature prior to this show. The fixtures are ‘Dark Sky Compliant.’ The administration appears to be valuing a lighting changeover on how it impacts both the night sky and ecology.
This story will lead us into our next one. But before we get to that, let’s review what is actually happening.
Western Washington University recognized it was time to convert to LEDs. Instead of doing what many communities did, and that was to not enter into the first and brightest contact, they saw an opportunity to reimagine lighting that was both sustainable and suited the perceived needs of the student body.
I say perceived, because often times on the issue of street lights, both ends of the debate appear to take the middle hostage.
Before I open this one up, let’s look at our Afraid of the Dark piece – a piece from Woroni, a news source discussing the going ons at Australia National University. “THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL DOESN’T WORK: INVESTIGATING ANU’S STREET LIGHTING”
This piece written by Raida Chowdhury, a student at Australian National University, illustrates what happens when we let fear run wild. Basing everything on the 2019 University of Chicago Crime Labs Study, “Reducing Crime Through Environmental Design: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment of Street Lighting in New York City,” the solution to all violent crimes must be Light!!
Now clearly the situation at ANU is not working for the students, especially any arriving home late. One student raised the concern after walking down a dimly lit street, “I can make out a person’s shape from a distance. But I cannot [distinguish] their features like clothes, face, or even if they are carrying something, until I get close to them.”
One of the routes uses motion-sensor lights, which the author, Chowdhury, feared would lead students to take longer routes back as they evidently did not know there were motion-sensing lights.
Security was of course the main theme – correlating lighting as the sole prevention of crime and fear on campus.
One student claimed to never see security patrols on their walk. The school does have a 24/7 escort service to help and assist students who feel threatened or in jeopardy.
Now Chowdhury is a student, I’m presuming. And I hope to god she has never experienced anything to the level of what she insinuates regularly happens without light. However, maybe we can take a step back from the ledge here.
Western Washington was able to address student concerns AND protect the ecology, night sky, and environment. Would that be a workable solution at ANU? Would that pacify even an excited and fearful student journalist?
Lastly, if you’re in search of a natural nighttime experience, you don’t have to come to the US or go to Australia, the UK, or the English-speaking world! Check this out! India’s First Astro-Reserve in Ladakh, honestly looks like such a cool experience. The Reserve sits in Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary….and these photos of the milky way are breathtaking!