NELPAG Circular No. 21

NELPAG Circular No. 21                                    1998 May 5

New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (NELPAG)
Editor:     Daniel W. E. Green [M.S. 18; Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory;
               60 Garden Street; Cambridge, MA  02138]  (telephone 617-495-7440)
Secretary:  Eric Johansson     (telephone 508-667-0137)

     "Subscription" to this news/information Circular is available by sending
self-addressed, stamped (currently 32 cents in the U.S.A.) regular-sized
(9.5x4-inch) envelopes (SASE) to Dan Green at his postal address, or by
sending your e-mail address to NELPAG-REQUEST@HARVEE.BILLERICA.MA.US (Internet).
NELPAG Circulars are issued at irregular intervals, once every couple of months
on average, as news accumulutes.  Contributed information for this Circular
concerning outdoor lighting problems in New England (or pertinent info from
outside New England) are always welcome.  Please circulate this newsletter to
all interested parties.  Look at our World Wide Web site at URL


     There will be a NELPAG spring meeting held at Yale University from
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 6, 1998.  The location is the Geology
Building on the campus, near the Peabody Museum.  Contact Bob Crelin
(e-mail; telephone 203-481-5769) for more information.
See also the flyer attached to the printed version of this Circular and
the detailed information on the NELPAG web site.

     Recent articles that I have written in THE OBSERVATORY and in SKY
AND TELESCOPE, chastising astronomers for not doing more to help this cause,
have been well-received by the community.  But this makes me want to re-state
something that Peter Talmage told me (and which I totally concur with).
This is directed at all astronomers, professional and amateur:  If you are
not directly helping in the fight against light pollution, you are part of the
problem!  You cannot be neutral on this issue.  If you do nothing to educate
the public regularly and/or to support groups such as the IDA, then you are
effectively in the enemy camp (and you should reconsider your position!).  Being
silent (or inactive) on light-pollution issues means that you condone the status
quo, which is pathetic outdoor lighting.  This problem of bad outdoor night
light is too serious an issue for any astronomer to ignore.  Check out my
'Focal Point' at Sky's online website, at  --- D.W.E.G.

     Note that the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) has changed
its postal address to 3225 N. First Ave., Tucson, AZ  85719.

     Lexington, Mass., has just passed a new outdoor-lighting ordinance.
Unfortunately, it is a very-watered-down version of a 4-page proposal that
I submitted to the Planning Board last September.  But it is something,
at least.  I have yet to see a copy of the final watered-down version.
Residential housing is exempted, and everything now in place is apparently
permanently grandfathered --- two notable and most unfortunate changes from
my proposal.  I had proposed a 10-year period for all bad lighting to be
converted to full-cutoff fixtures.

     I've been e-mailed a copy of an April 30 story from the Los Angeles
Times entitled "California and the West Anaheim Drivers Say Lights From
Stadium Are Blinding" (page A-3), which begins, "Squinting drivers on the
Orange Freeway say the glare from the lights of Edison Field has them seeing
red, and a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman said her agency has contacted
officials of the Anaheim Angels' ballpark to ask if they can mute the dazzling
lights and parking lot electronic billboard."  Drivers have been complaining
because the lights are blinding them!  Amazing.  And lo and behold, one
driver even is quoted as saying, "the danger appears to be far greater
than I anticipated, especially on a rainy night".  How many zillions of
other such places are there in every state and every country that need such

     In addition to the earth-orbiting Iridium satellites that cause
sun reflections visible on the ground as bright as a crescent moon,
the Japanese are planning to float hundreds of "airships" some 20 km
above the earth's surface for mobile-phone communications, because
they are ten times cheaper than satellites.  The airships, as they
are called in NEW SCIENTIST 158(2128), 15 (4 April 1998), are
to be 260 meters long and to be launched over the next 2-3 years.
We hope this is an April Fool's joke, but report it hear in good faith
nonetheless, in the fear that the story is indeed true.  True or not,
the point is that more and more commericial and industrial sources are
looking to the sky --- whether advertising or purely "mechanical/functional",
whether in the earth's atmosphere or outside it --- as a "useful" place for
objects that will be sources of light pollution.  An international
commission clearly needs to be established to regulate such monstrosities,
but unfortunately this may never happen.  All for the sake of "progress".
     And we've been hearing lots of reports by observers of sightings of
the Iridium satellite flashes, which are often brighter than Venus.
Tony Beresford in Australia writes to say that "an appreciable subset
[of the Iridium flashes] do occur for solar depression [altitude] angles
< -23 deg. . . .  A mag -6 or -7 flare is quite a sight."  He adds that
one can look up predicted flash times for a given location at the website
URL  See also the online version of an
article that Beresford wrote about the Iridium satellites for the local
Astro Society newsletter at

     Check out the new annual award for the best and worst outdoor lighting
in Western Massachusetts, as sponsored by the STARS Club.  Their website
is at

     David L. Winstead recently replied on behalf of the Maryland Governor
to Jim Jurena of Goddard Space Flight Center, concerning bad lights on
highways in Maryland:  "I am pleased to inform you that the Maryland
Department of Transportation has taken steps to improve the quality and
efficiency of lighting installations along all of our new highway
construction projects.  Approximately five years ago the State Highway
Administration (SHA) began specifying that full cut-off luminaires be used
in all of our highway contracts.  All roadway lighting projects advertised
and awarded to contractors since that time require full cut-off luminaires.
If you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact
Mr. Tom Hicks, SHA's Director of Traffic and Safety, who can be reached at
1-888-963-0307 or"

ENCLOSURES (printed Circular only):  1-page flyers each on the 1998 IDA
meeting and the 1998 spring NELPAG meeting.  See the NELPAG and IDA web
sites for more information.


The NELPAG supports the International Dark-Sky Association and recommends
that all individuals/groups who are interested in the problems of light
pollution and obtrusive lighting should subscribe to the IDA Newsletter.
IDA membership costs $30.00 per year; send check to International Dark-Sky
Association, 3225 N. First Ave., Tucson, AZ  85719 (NOTE new address!).