NELPAG Circular No. 27

NELPAG Circular No. 27                                    2000 November 11

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

     "Subscription" to this news/information Circular is available by sending
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(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


     About thirteen people assembled at Phillips Auditorium at Harvard
College Observatory (Cambridge, MA) on November 11 for a 6-hour meeting
(which included a 1.5-hour lunch discussion at a nearby restaurant);
six people from Connecticut and one person from Rhode Island joined
six people from Massachusetts for some good discussions.
     Of primary importance at this meeting was the discussion of the
2002 Fall IDA national meeting, which will be hosted in the Boston area
by the NELPAG and the IDA.  It was agreed to establish immediately a
Local Organizing Committee, or LOC (to work on local details regarding the
meeting venue and making sure that the meeting runs well) and a Program
Organizing Committee, or POC (to determine the format and speakers for
the meeting).  The POC will necessarily include numerous people from
outside the Boston area and even outside of New England, while the LOC
will be composed more of local individuals.  Several people at the Nov. 11
meeting agreed to serve on either the LOC or POC, but more people will be
needed, so please consider volunteering (contact me or the IDA office).
     It was widely agreed that holding the meeting at the Boston Museum
of Science (MoS) (which has a large auditorium that must be rented out) is
preferable to almost any other venue, because of its respected, neutral
(non-astronomical and non-corporate) standing.  In earlier discussions
with MoS personnel, I had found that they would not be willing to offer us
use of an auditorium at no cost, though we may be able to get a reduced
non-profit charge.  The attendees of the Nov. 11 meeting felt that the
MoS venue is so important for this IDA national meeting that the funds
should be sought --- one good source being the rental of tables at the
meeting for lighting-industry companies to show their literature and/or
light fixtures.  Also, the MoS had indicated an interest in establishing
an exhibit on the history of outdoor lighting over the past century-plus,
and this would be an added draw to highlight our meeting.  So the next
step is to get back to the MoS people and ask about costs for renting
the big auditorium there for either one or two days, and to inquire further
about setting up an exhibit on lighting for 2002.
     This brought us to wonder how many days we should aim for this IDA
national meeting to last.  It is assumed that this will be either a 2- or
or 3-day meeting.  It was widely agreed that we should spend one or two
days at the MoS, with talks and panel discussions open to the public and
news media and relying heavily on interaction and involvement with lighting
engineers, members of the lighting industry and power-utility companies,
environmentalists, lawyers, government officials, and astronomers.  But
it was also thought very sound to then have a full-day meeting *after*
the MoS sessions back at Harvard Observatory (where there is no room
rental or parking problems) for the light-pollution activists to discuss
the MoS sessions and to talk about future paths to take.
     It was also encouraged that we have workshops at the fall 2002
meeting, and it is thought that a good plan for the MoS sessions is to
have an invited review talk on some topic, followed by a panel discussion
open to members of the audience on that same topic, followed by a second
review talk, a second panel discussion, etc. --- to keep the audience
involved and interested, and to provide for increased opportunities for
the various groups involved in outdoor-lighting issues to have more
interaction and constructive dialogue.  Various themes will need to be
discussed, as well as potential speakers and panelists for each theme,
before a firm number of dates can be chosen.
     Discussion about registration fees left the issue unresolved.  It
was felt by some that we might perhaps have a low registration fee at
the MoS sessions (but none for the 1-day activist meeting here at Harvard
Observatory on the final day), but some members of the public (and even
news media) might be turned away by the prospect of a registration fee,
so this needs to be considered cautiously.  I presume that invited speakers
and panelists would not be charged a registration fee.  One person suggested
that we might even consider paying a professional convention planner to
help make the meeting planning and actual event turn out more polished
(helping to work on some of the tedious little issues like badges, hotel
accomodation, registration issues, etc.), but some budget estimates would
need to be worked out first.  There was also a brief discussion about the
possibility of published proceedings of the invited papers (and maybe even
some of the discussions if tape-recorded), but cost issues here would also
have to be considered.
     Additional discussion about the Fall 2002 IDA meeting will occur on
Thursday, Nov. 16, when Elizabeth Alvarez (IDA, Tucson) meets here in
Cambridge with me and several NELPAGers.  We agreed also to hold the next
regional NELPAG meeting in April 2001 in New Haven, CT, to further discuss
plans for the Fall 2002 IDA meeting; there is quite a bit of work to do!
     Various other items were discussed at the Nov. 11 meeting, including
such topics as reaching out to school children on light-pollution education.
We discussed putting together a NELPAG set of slides, getting various
people to contribute their best light-pollution slides.  We talked at some
length about letter-writing campaigns, with the suggestion that both NELPAG
and IDA compile lists of people who will commit to writing letters for
special requests (generally for, but not strictly limited to, bigger
issues involving large cities, states, or the entire nation), to get more
letters written --- especially to retail stores that sell outdoor lighting
fixtures for residential, recreational, and small-business use.  We also
talked about the status of various state laws and pending bills on outdoor
lighting, and about the pending introduction of a national bill in the U.S.
Congress (with Cliff Haas showing a 2-page letter that Senator Joe Lieberman
wrote to him highlighting the Senator's strong support for the fight against
light pollution, indicating that Sen. Lieberman might be a good person to ask
to introduce such a bill into the Senate).
     Art Upgren showed a photometer that he and his students produced some
20 years ago to determine the brightness of the night sky, and we talked
about how the sky is brightening rapidly in so many places.  A photometer
is a way to quantify how much the sky is brightening.  Upgren also noted
that he has obtained a list of members of the American Astronomical Society
(which does not appear complete) and is comparing this to a list of IDA
members; preliminary indications are that only a few percent of AAS members
belong to the IDA.  Upgren is the new chair of the AAS committee on light
pollution, and he hopes to infuse some energy into the committee and the
AAS on light-pollution issues.
     Eric Johansson, who does a great job of maintaining the NELPAG e-mail
discussion list, notes that there is now an archive of the NELPAG discussion
e-mail messages available on the World Wide Web; we will add a link to this
from the NELPAG website very soon.
     I apologize if I have left out anything important from the discussions
at this Nov. 11 meeting, but it was a very productive and interesting
    -- Dan Green


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!).