Potential Disappearance of Our Night Sky

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
That little verse may mean about as much to future generations as “roll up the window” or “dial the phone.”  The National Park Service reports that “two-thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their backyard, and if current light pollution trends continue, there will be almost no dark skies left in the contiguous United States by 2025.”
Even though Hawaii is in the middle of the ocean, we’re not off the hook.  People who live in the urban areas of Oahu already cannot see stars at night, and teachers of astronomy recommend that their students go to the North Shore for best viewing of the night sky.
Light Pollution Oahu map
Light pollution on Oahu.  Additional maps available at Light pollution maps.
Stars are “disappearing” because of light pollution.  It comes from various sources — our own homes, decorative yard lights, security lights, park lights, street lights, etc.  The good news is that we can reclaim the stars.  We can start with our own homes by using low glare fixtures and motion detectors and turning off lights when they’re not in use.

In addition, we can make sure our political representatives know how important the night sky is to us.  Mayor Caldwell and his administration plan on replacing all of the city’s street lights with LEDs over the next few years.  It’s good that he recognizes the need to reduce our energy consumption, but you can read about some concerns related to this project in City’s LED Project Needs Revisions. 

My son, Orion, was named after a constellation, and it makes me sad to think that his children will probably not be able to see his namesake.  What about you?  Please post your thoughts.

For more information, see:  Darksky.org; Flagstaffdarkskies.org.

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