Looking for Dark Skies

Turn off that light! It's a pollutant!

Hard to believe? It'll be apparent after you've viewed the Web site "Looking for Dark Skies Over Millennium"

As the site says, lighting that is not done in a responsible manner is another environmental hazard, although one that only recently has been studied. Many people do not understand Light Pollution, which is the reason for the Website.

The creators of the online educational project "Looking for Dark Skies" hope to teach students the concept of responsible lighting as well as enlightening (no pun intended) the students and teachers about the effects of light pollution. Another aspect of this project is to encourage the students to educate their parents, and to encourage their communities to adopt laws that will ensure responsible outdoor lighting to help protect our health, and the health of our environment.

According to Michael Rosbash, Ph.D. Howard Hughes Medical Institute "A hallmark of every experimental organism from fruit flies to mice is that intense, constant light causes the normal circadian rhythm to go into arrhythmia, to essentially go whacko." This project will help students and teachers to delve deeper into the mysteries of light pollution and its effects upon human, as well as other animals, health.

Students will also research light pollution's effects on the environment. For example some insects, such as moths, are phototactic (attracted by light), while others such as fireflies are lucifugal (dislike and therefore avoid light). For both of these insect species, the effects of nighttime lighting are significant.

Did you know that the effects of artificial light on agricultural crops such as rice and spinach are already well understood in some countries? Rice is a short day plant and rice ear formation is delayed by nighttime light. This effect is believed to be the strongest from 20 ~ 40 days before ear formation so it is necessary for people in rice-growing areas to be careful when setting up lighting installations on roads in the vicinity of rice paddies.

The three major goals for this project are:

  • To create nighttime sky maps by measuring the ambient light levels at night from various locations. This will be done by using star counts, or by the use of light meters (or cameras equipped with light meters)
  • To encourage local officials to create working laws on light pollution and responsible outdoor lighting.
  • To create local websites discussing laws regarding lighting, environmental/health impacts and responsible outdoor lighting concepts- including types of lighting. These websites will also include the publishing of local nighttime skymaps.

Not only do we need to teach our students about the dangerous effects of light pollution, we need to teach them that it is not necessarily a permanent problem. Light pollution can be drastically reduced by eliminating the wasted light that is directed upward and by using bulbs that reduce glare.

This online project has lessons that include Determining Sky Glow (light pollution over cities); Effects on Health and Environment; Mapping Ambient Light; and how to warn others of the potential damaging effects of light pollution (Lobbying for Responsible Lighting). There are also lessons on How to Conduct Online Research, as well as lessons on How to Create Simple Web Pages. All lessons are also aligned to National Education Standards- Joining the project is simple, just go to "Join Our Project" and fill in the contact information.

The project also encourages schools to have a "Dark Skies over our School" information night. This information night will allow participants to inform the public about light pollution. It is an excellent opportunity to display the students' work, while encouraging local politicians to help reduce light pollution.

This online project also makes use of a discussion board to help encourage collaboration and discussion on the subject of light pollution.

This project was inspired by, and in hopes of furthering the work of:

IDA - the International Dark Skies Association

Light Right for Sight at Night

CfDS - Campaign for Dark Skies

Email: Rosemary Shaw

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