.... or so they can be in most of Putnam County. When the skies are dark
and the weather clear out here in Western Kent you can easily make out the
Milky Way as it stretches itself across the night sky. Satellites and
meteors are among the easily seen night sky objects. And, with binoculars
or a small telescope even more comes easily in to view.

But suburbia is spreading and, slowly but surely, we're losing our ability
to see the night sky. Field Lights on parks can be seen for miles, even a
neighbor with an unshielded light can be seen for miles or more once the
leaves come off the trees. The street lamps we use to light our highway and
road intersections... none of them are shielded and much of the energy used
to produce that light is wasted as the light is scattered in every
direction but down.

Shielded lighting costs a little more to put into place, but since the
light is focused on where it needs to be, the wattage is lower so in the
long run it's cheaper to own and operate. And more, shielded lighting can
protect your view of the night sky while still providing the lighting you
need for safety around your home.

The worst offended to dark skies are lights on parks and stadiums. These
lights, thousands and thousands of watts, cast their mercury vapor glow out
in all directions and can be seen for miles on a clear night and many more
miles on a cloudy night as a low cloud bank reflects and scatters the
light. Moreover, these bright "stadium" or "park" lights are known to
confuse animals and birds and plants that depend on a certain amount of
night-time darkness.

From a National Geographic Article:

"A recent experiment sheds light on the light-pollution problem
for salamanders. Ecologists Sharon Wise and Bryant Buchanan from Utica
College strung white holiday lights along transects near Mountain Lake
Biological Station in Pembroke, Virginia, to test the effects of artificial
lighting on the amphibians­which normally emerge from beneath leaf litter
to hunt about an hour after dusk..

"We found that when lights are on, they stay hidden for an
additional hour," said Wise. "The later they come out, the less food they
may be able to eat."

Buchanan also discovered that some tree frogs stop calling in
brightly-lit areas. "If the males aren't calling, they're not reproducing,"
he said.

He is also concerned about the way light affects physical
development. Lab studies show that the amount of light exposure affects DNA
synthesis and the production of hormones­hormones that regulate everything
from how much fat the frogs store for the winter to when they produce eggs."

People who live near Ryan's Field or Carmel High School know exactly what
I'm talking about and how invasive these bright lights can be!

We need to take dark skies into account as part of our quality of life.
Shield your lights so that they point *only* where they need to be, put
them on timers or motion sensors, make certain your lights do not shine
onto your neighbor's property our out into the street where they can cause
a hazard to passing drivers and most of all, whenever the specter of
non-safety related outdoor lighting raises its head, stop it dead in its

Here are some links on the issue that might be of interest.

The Untied States at Night:

Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford:

National Geographic: Taking Toll on Wildlife:

Sample Light Pollution Local Law




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Wednesday, January 5, 2005