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) e-mail: email@example.com Secretary: Eric Johansson (telephone 508-667-0137) email: firstname.lastname@example.org "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 http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/nelpag/nelpag.html *********** NELPAG SPRING MEETING 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 email@example.com; 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. ASTRONOMERS' LACK OF SUPPORT FOR LIGHT-POLLUTION EDUCATION 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 http://www.skypub.com/lpnotes/astronlp.html. --- D.W.E.G. OTHER NOTES 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 correcting? 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 http://www.gsoc.dir.de/satvis. See also the online version of an article that Beresford wrote about the Iridium satellites for the local Astro Society newsletter at http://www.assa.org.au/iridium.html#about. 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 http://www.reflector.org/light.htm. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org." *********** 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!).