The Perma-Noon Super Highway

Light Pollution News October 2023 - The Perma-noon Super Highway!
Light Pollution News Podcast
Light Pollution News Podcast
The Perma-Noon Super Highway

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October 2023: The Perma-Noon Super Highway, Light Pollution News.


Ziz Knight

Iowa native residing in Los Angeles, CA. In March 2023, Knight co-founded the Los Angeles County Chapter of Dark Sky International. Knight’s passion for exploration and discovery led her to engage in two research projects through the NASA-sponsored and chartered Autonomy Research Center for STEAHM (ARCS Program) at CSUN. Knight graduated with a degree in Psychology and Anthropology from California State University Northridge in 2022.

Drew Evans

Accomplished Astrophotographer. Philly native turned Flagstaff, Arizona resident. Member of the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition. Featured in NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day on April 30, 2022. Follow Drew on Instagram or Astrobin. Watch his all sky cam anytime, including for the annular eclipse!

Article List:

I want to start this month off with a wonderfully written essay by Lauren Collee in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Collee begins her essay citing an episode of the Simpsons whereby Lisa, after falling in love with astronomy, takes to the streets to campaign for reduced nighttime lighting levels in Springfield. Eventually, she succeeds, forcing Mayor Quimby to shut off all of the town’s street lights.

Per Collee, “In the darkness, the townspeople revel in their newfound freedom: Moe and Selma kiss passionately on a park bench, Bart attempts to steal the hood ornament from Fat Tony’s car.

But, the new arrangement doesn’t last long. A surge in crime forces Mayor Quimby to turn the lights on again, this time to the highest setting – “perma-noon.”

Quimby completely eliminates night from Springfield. The city’s rhythms go haywire. Marge overworks herself! Birds begin tunnelling underground!

Eventually, Lisa and Bart team up to shut off the power once more, and all of Springfield gathers together to watch a meteor shower naturally light up the sky above.”

The gist of Collie’s extensive essay is not to poke fun at light pollution as the “environmental concern du jour,” but rather try and ground the concept in what it is and what it isn’t.

In what it should strive to resolve and what it shouldn’t.

Collee takes shots at the segmentation of, what some might call, people of light versus people of darkness.

Collee also pokes at the very much beloved study by street brightening advocates, New York’s eerily named “Project Omnipresence,” which weaponized light against high crime communities. Communities housing predominantly black and brown neighborhoods. Project Omnipresence weaponized “a white light equivalent to 200 car headlights.”  

Collee recalls a telling conversation with David Smith of the UK based insect charity, Buglife, whereby he lambasted the concept of dark sky places which “work for things such as astronomy, but” per Smith, only serve to immobilize and jeopardize insect species to the confines of dark reserves that we provide for them.

Well, 2023 looks like the year Astro-tourism cemented itself in pop culture. Nearly every month since we started this show, we’ve seen an uptick in articles showcasing tourism of some type related to the night sky.

And this month, the big news came out of Utah.

A resort company named Under Canvas, became the first resort to earn a new International Dark Sky Places designation, a DarkSky Resort status.

Located 15 miles up from Page, Arizona, Under Canvas Lake Powell features “50 safari-style canvas tents, each furnished with West Elm décor, wood-burning stoves, and in-suite bathrooms.” Some even have “stargazing suites” with a viewing window so that you can stare at the sky for hours from the comfort of your bed.

The executive director of Dark Sky International, Ruskin Hartley, believes the new DarkSky Resort designation will allow recognition for all levels of vocational rentals, including from the mom and pop Airbnb all the way up to major resort and lodging partners.

Far removed from the dry desserts of Utah and Arizona, the dark skies of Africa are becoming an interesting experiential destination for those who wish to pay for it.

Why not take in some of the most mesmerizing night sky objects including the Southern Cross constellation and the Magellanic clouds from the spectacle of a Botswanan night safari!

Or, if safaris aren’t your thing, what about Europe?

Why not head out to Portugal for kayaking by starlight, a dawn hot air balloon ride, some home grown red wine, and maybe even a night swim. Per National Geographic, Portugal’s Alqueva region is the country’s first “Starlight Tourism Destination.”

The region, anchored by Europe’s largest artificial body of water, the Alqueva Reservoir, evidently experiences only a “fraction of the visitors its neighbor, the Algarve” and offers you a star-studded view of the night sky!

It’s been noted, first appearing last month in a line from Sense Turner’s brilliant requiem of the night sky, to this article from Upworthy – “How light pollution has turned looking at a night sky into an incredibly rare luxury,” that enabling fairer access to see the stars is becoming a privilege for the few.

Staying on the topic of Dark Sky designations, we welcome two new Dark Sky places.

Exciting news out of Japan as Minami-Rokuroshi in Ono City became the first Urban Night Sky Place in Asia! 

And a province that has grown considerably closer to my heart over the years if only for its brilliant mountain biking trails, tasty poutine, and incredibly delicious – well made sour ales, Quebec’s Mont-Tremblant National Park gained status as the sixth International Dark Sky place in Canada. Mont-Tremblant joins Mont-Megantic, Parc du Mont Bellevue, Quetico Provincial Park, Bon Accord (Alberta), and the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. 

Well, Boston area photographer, Babak Tafreshi recently showcased his photos in Boston Magazine. The article highlights some brilliant nighttime shots from all over New England. You’ll notice that not one of them has an unshielded light fixture in them.

The photo article was put together at the same time as two bills make their way through the Massachusetts House.

2023 Senate Bill 2102 and House Bill 3164 are at some stage stuck in the legislative limbo. Both bills appear to be lay out some common sense protections – namely barring the usual exemption, roadway lighting cannot exceed 3000 Kelvin in temperature; any vanity lighting that receives public funding cannot exceed 500 lumens; and building facades along with sports fixtures must be set up purposefully to minimize their neighborly and environmental impact.

There doesn’t appear to be anything odd or unexpected in either of these bills. To the untrained eye, they look quite conservative.

Now I very well could be wrong, as I’m no legal scholar, but the legislation isn’t as encompassing as the reintroduction of AB38 to the California Assembly by Democratic Assemblyman, Alex Lee.

This is one we’ve been following for some time.

Lee’s home community of San Jose went through a lengthy battle over the installation of electronic billboards brought about by Clear Channel in 2022. Clear Channel apparently bought its way to a victory despite massive public opposition. The city council voted all but unanimously to approve the billboards with the two opposition votes coming from the only mayoral candidates that term.

In 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a proposed piece of state wide legislation, citing fiscal constraints. Lee has since reintroduced it again in 2023.  

Light pollution mitigation efforts are also taking place in a state not known for its prudence in ecological mindfulness, New Jersey.

The shoreside county of Cape May, is considering a mitigation ordinance. I should note that in addition to being a thriving shore and bay-side community, the unique geographical southerly point of Cape May attracts upwards of 200,000 birds in a single day of fall migration. Birds, not expecting the landmass to just end, fly to the point then circle back before making the journey across the Delaware Bay to Cape Henlopen, Delaware.

Circling back to Massachusetts, we do have some good news, and that is the island of Nantucket.

In what might be described as a textbook lesson in community involvement and education, Nantucket Lights founder Gail Walker successfully worked with her community to garner buy in for local legislation that includes a 5 year ramp up for the following:

  • a light shielding requirement
  • using light temperatures for exterior lighting that is in alignment with the Massachusetts Medical Society standards.
  • Limits on lumen maximums for outdoor lighting.
  • And the requirement that all unnecessary lighting remain off from 11pm through to 6am.

Before we depart from our policy segment. I’m curious to hear your guys’ thoughts on this one.

Should Greenwich, CT ban exterior “landscape lighting? Under the guise of “protecting birds,”

New regulations are being considered, replacing outdated guidance dating way back to 1993.  The proposed code aims to reduce the total business “lumen output by at least 30% or have them turned off completely an hour past closing or after 10pm.

An extension to the code would prohibit landscape lighting, drawing the unified ire of business owners and ostentatious residents alike.

Ok enough of that! Let’s switch gears!

Did you know that astronauts on the ISS experience 16 sunrises and sunsets PER DAY?! That’s because the space station orbits the earth every 90 minutes. Combine the strangeness of having your sky sit neatly packaged into a giant sphere below you, and near constant weightlessness, one’s gotta wonder –  how on earth [or more aptly, above earth] do these folks sleep!?

SAGA Space Architects have built a lamp that they hope will help passengers be able to synch up their circadian rhythm. The lamp, which now sits in the European Space Agency’s Andreas Mogensen’s crew cabin, glows red to “simulate a calming sunset” and will glow blue to “evoke the colors of a morning sky.”

Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark are using Mogensen as a guinea pig in what they hope will help provide a closer grasp to mitigating circadian issues in space, and possibly shed some understanding on the ones down here.

A bit closer to land, the PerCiLight study attempts to measure the impact of modulated lighting on residents of a Dutch nursing home impaired by dementia. It’s a 30 month study that gauges how effectiveness of a proprietary lighting system which seeks to improve patient’s mental state while also improving the condition of the nurses on site. Nurses whom are exposed to consistent lighting at all hours.

Staying with our tech theme – there’s this very interesting study out of Smart Cities. In Finland, researchers put to the test, always on street lights versus presence sensing street lights that trigger as vehicles approach.

The results indicate that drivers were, well, pretty indifferent to either one actually! Meaning that the presence sensing light fixtures performed on par with the always on fixtures in the mind of drivers.

To be sure, this is an early study, so more research would be needed to understand how such off and on smart lights would impact pedestrians, ecology or simply those living nearby.

So, I came across these fluff pieces that I’d love for either one of you to weigh in on. From the website, the Spruce, who lists the number of followers by their social media channels at the bottom of each page, I’d like to have your thoughts on the following from their post, the “Top 10 Best Outdoor Motion Sensor Lights of 2023.”

On a scale of 1 – 5, with 5 being the most annoying and 1 being the most unassuming, how do you two rate the following in terms of terrifying your neighbor.

  • First up: the Leonlite Security Light, showcasing 1800 lumen output with a delightful 5000 Kelvin white as your Sunday afternoon color spectrum! Bonus – per the Spruce, this one has a range of 69 feet, and can be aimed in the direction most likely to incur nightly intrusions – translate – directly into your neighbor’s windows!

And Is it just me, or do these fixtures always resemble a robotic face? Maybe I watch too much scifi!

  • Next, the best for brightness is SANSI’s motion flood light that looks like it a plane with wings set for a bombing run.

On each side of the sensor, three perfectly unshielded LED fixtures combine for a total lumen output of 6,000! But don’t worry, there’s no dimmer setting for this guy – so now you can blast not just one neighbor, but even blind ones living a few houses down!

Ok, let’s look at one more – we could go on all day here. This post lists 10 of essentially the same exact product. Except for this one.

  • How about the Euri Lighting EFL-130W-MD Flickering Flame Lantern. This fixture design harkens back to an old oil lamp. Flickering away with a fake warm flame until there’s movement. Then – BAM – it’s got ya!! Sending out a 1200 Lumen white light bath in all directions!

Ok, enough of that!

Metropolis ran an article showing off 4 dark sky friendly light fixtures. All four of them priced high enough to be out of most people’s budgets. This article showcases the apparent disconnect between “dark sky” friendly lighting and what the average joe wants to spend. Many of the fixtures I see that bear the mark of Dark Sky Int’l either aren’t priced to most consumer’s wallets or aren’t utilitarian enough for what the average consumer is looking to use it for – meaning that the fixtures don’t answer the ‘why’ of why you one buys lighting to begin with.

Let’s talk birds!

It’s that time of year again, and I know, for some of you I’m sure it came too fast. It’s fall bird migration season here in North America. Many communities participate in the Audubon Society’s “Light’s Out” campaign, whereby various commercial towers will dim their vanity and non-essential floor lighting to reduce light’s impact on birds passing through.

In St. Louis, the National Park Service chose to not illuminate the Gateway Arch during the month of September as St. Louis sits on the Mississippi River flyway, which witnesses about 40% of the nation’s migratory waterfowl pass through.

In Texas, again, we see former First Lady and Texan by Nature founder, Laura Bush, come to bat for a practical ecological issue, this time a Lights Out campaign.

Per our former first lady, “Taking action now is vital because every spring and fall, between a third and a quarter of all birds migrating at night through the United States travel through Texas.”

To hit the point home, there was a corresponding exhibit at Texas A&M showcasing light pollution’s impact on birds, including the display of a sizable number of building – collision killed birds.

It’s estimated that 80% of migratory North American birds do so at night. The shear distance birds travel, largely at night, are astounding – anywhere from 15 to 600 miles per day!!

And the speeds at which they do so are even more incredible, from 15 – 55mph!!

Did you know, you can bird at night? All of these details comes to us from a great multipart series by Science American’s Science Quickly podcast.

Birding at night presents some challenges. You really can’t visually identify the birds, so instead you must essentially create audio buckets – which is exactly what it sounds like – a Lowe’s bucket converted into a giant microphone. We’ll have a link to a tutorial for creating your very own bird microphone bucket on if interested.

So once you capture the audio, how on earth do you tell what kind of bird it is?! Night signatures may be distinctly different from daytime chirps. Utilizing over the counter software, hobbyists can implement audio identification software to assist in identifying the cue.

Just as astronomers use large arrays to identify visual, radio, or x-ray observations, birders utilize what’s termed, the nighttime bird surveillance network to distinguish individual species. These are essentially groups of nighttime audiophile bird observers.

On the professional end, radar is used to forecast bird movement, aiding in predicting when precisely cities should expect bird flyovers.

Through technology and citizen science, avian fans are looking to help provide a more dynamic approach to nighttime lighting policies that will sherpa birds safely across the continent.

Well sticking with birds, we now have greater insight into how, so called, common birds, handle light pollution.  Per North Carolina State, Robins appear to be the biggest beneficiaries of an endless daytime. Robins utilize artificial light much like people would – to extend their daily activities past the confines of sundown.

Gray Catbirds and Wrens, on the other hand, appear to incur the most difficulty in light polluted environments. It’s noted that a sizable number of bird collision deaths involve gray catbirds. Per a study published last month, we see from a study in the Science of the Total Environment that sleep deprivation from a 24×7 daytime impacts the cognitive abilities of songbirds.

Let’s round up the remaining ecological news.

  • Per the New Zealand Journal of Zoology, artificial light at night impacts how the critically threatened long-tailed bats behave. Using LED floodlights, who knows maybe one from the prior mentioned list, researchers counted “significantly lower” bat detections rates on nights when the light was on, compared to unlit nights. The control site that lacked the floodlight saw no change in bat detections over the same time period.
  • It appears that even oysters, creatures that lack eyes, can have their circadian rhythms thrown into a knot by persistent artificial light at night – light that doesn’t even reach the level of the full moon, per a June study in the Marine Pollution Bulletin. When exposed to artificial light, oysters opened their shells at “inappropriate times.” Open shells being an activity done typically midday for the purposes of everything from eating to mating.
  • Staying under water, a study from the Science of Total Environment, indicates that artificial light at night also impacts the reproductive fitness of the fish species, the Japanese medaka. Evidently medaka fish have a rigid hierarchy dominated by aggressive males. Under normal day-night cycles, subordinate males, though receiving less time with females, still were able to procreate. When exposed to artificial light at night, the sperm quality of the subordinate fish actually decreased while the dominate male’s continued to successfully mate.
  • Finally, apparently some species of plants are more susceptible to certain artificial light wavelengths. In a study from Ecological Processes, it’s found that the bushy Japanese euonymus experienced decreased stomatal effectiveness for light containing blue and red wavelengths. The stomatal, for those of you at home who have no clue what this is, essentially is the pore of a plant that helps exchange gases and moisture. Meanwhile, the garden rose, which they examined side by side, was not impacted by artificial light.

I have a couple of stories here that may have you thinking twice about your position on billboards and street lights. I’m curious to hear what you guys think about them.

First up, the city of Oakland, California approved a deal with Becker Boards LLC and Outfront Foster Interstate LLC to essentially double their billboard signage. Before you grimace, the agreement between the city and the billboard companies forecasts a gross revenue projection of $73M over 41 years. That flat line amortizes out to around $1.7M per year.

How exactly you can forecast out 41 years and why on Earth you’d enter into a 41 year contract is beyond me, but that’s neither here nor there.

The $1.7M additional per year will go back to the city and to allied community organizations.

Next up, could street lights really make streets safer after all? This one comes to us from WAFB 9, “Lack of lighting impacting city’s efforts to fight crime.”

Yvette Wright’s son, Tywon, was shot twice on a street with no lights. Despite laying on the road screaming and shining his phone’s light up and down, nobody apparently noticed him. Thankfully, Tywon was able to call 911 himself. He survived the attack.

In another instance, a resident on a street with lights had atleast one car with windows smashed in. A local resident feels that more lighting would deter such vandalism.

This one comes to us from Lexington, Kentucky and is a bit of a different take on the street light narrative. It looks like the taxes are rising to cover the expense of street lighting, which has exceeded its budget now by the tune of $2M per year.

By an 11-4 vote, Lexington will raise taxes for business and home owners as “Street lights have not raised enough revenue to cover the expenses needed to operate the street lights for the city.”

A very strange quote if I ever did read one. Maybe one of you guys can enlighten me on how exactly a street light raises revenue.

Wrapping up the news.

Dark Sky International announced the winners of their annual Capture the Night photo competition. This year’s winners were truly mind blowing. The contest spans 10 categories with some of the most well  composed photos I’ve ever seen.

Including Wang Tianwei’s brilliant Milky Way fish eye view of the Perseid meteor shower. Ethan Su’s astounding lily blossom foreground to a lit mountain background.

Joe Casias composed an interesting conceptual shot, showing what it would be like to see the milky way out one’s bedroom window. And my personal favorite, Tengyu Cai’s composition of a firefly crazy foreground matched to a spinning star trail background.

Hey Drew, now you don’t have to worry about ever not having the right caption for your next Instagram post.

Some random website appears to have taken ai for a spin to generate night sky captions specifically for Instagram.

Let me know what you think of these two captions. I really think you should consider using one of them.

 “Gazing at infinity in the dark.”

Or maybe, “In the darkness, we find our true light.”

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