I know many non-amateur astronomers are saying "Huh? What's that?" The best way to describe Light Pollution is to give you a couple of examples. While
driving on any highway or road at night, do you have to squint from the glare as you approach street lights? Does the street light in front of your house
shine into your windows to the point where you need the blinds down to sleep at night? Does your neighbors light on his back porch light up YOUR back yard?
When you look up at the sky on a cloudy night, can you see the clouds?
Well if you've answered yes to any of these questions you've experienced light pollution.
What are the adverse impacts of poor night time lighting?
Security professionals who question this view need only ask themselves whether a person looks more suspicious standing under a light or in the dark with a
- Urban Sky Glow: Just because we're 50+ miles from NYC doesn't mean we're rural anymore. Look around! Urban
sky glow is destroying the rural look of Hunterdon County and our view of the universe. We don't live in the clouds; we don't need to light them.
- Direct Glare: Direct glare is defined as the visual discomfort resulting from insufficiently shielded light
sources in the field of view. One should "see the effect, not the light source". Use of the term "direct glare" is recommended in lieu of the word "glare"
alone. The direct glare definition means if you can see an unshielded lamp, or the luminaire maximum candlepower zone, you may well have glare. However,
usually when you are near a luminaire, you will see these parameters, of course. So a reasonable definition limiting the field of view is required.
- Light Trespass: Light Trespass simply means that someone elses light is adversely affecting you. Whether it be
a poorly aimed street light shining in your bedroom window at night, or a neighbor's dusk to dawn backyard light shining into your backyard. All light
trespass is bad.
- Environment: All this extra unnecessary lighting leaves us with a trashy looking, confusing environment. We
should be striving for a good looking environment, just as we should be doing in the day time. These poor environments are part of the stress of today's
life. Remember, the night is part of the environment too.
FCO Camping Gear
Is your camping Gear Light pollution friendly? Get set for Cherry Springs by making your camping
lantern full cut off simply with an empty tomato paste can. From the Light Pollution Awareness Site.
- Wasted Energy: The US wastes an astronomical amount of energy and money with all this bad lighting, shining it
where it is not needed nor wanted, and by using inefficient lighting sources and lighting designs. Here are some startling stats:
- Recent studies estimate that nationally more than 30% of the electricity generated for outdoor illumination is simply squandered by being
misdirected into the sky. That comes to $4.5 billion annually.
- One gram (1/70th teaspoon) of mercury falling into a 25 acre lake each year contaminates its fish to the point where they are unsafe to eat. More
than 52 tons of mercury released into the atmosphere by power plants in the US each year.
- US power utilities released more than 1 billion pounds of toxic chemicals into the air in 1998, the first year they were required to report such
- 13 million tons of sulfur dioxide released from coal burning plants in 1998 (last year for which complete data is available). NY power plants
released 313,606 tons sulfur dioxide and 102,000 tons nitrogen oxides in 1998.
- It takes, on the average, 0.47 tons of coal (940 pounds) to produce 1000 kWh of electricity, so one ton of coal can produce 2100 kWh of electricity.
It takes about 1.8 barrels (76 gallons) of crude oil to produce 1000 kWh of electricity, so one barrel of crude oil can produce 556 kWh. The wasted
light therefore equates to an annual waste of at least six million tons of coal (think of the added acid rain and air pollution!) or 23 million barrels
of oil (think of the added oil imports).
- Security: Does outdoor nighttime lighting prevent crime? The answer is nobody knows. The ubiquitous effort to
eliminate the dark of night makes the public immune to security lighting. As a result, security lighting has lost the ability to turn heads and grab the
attention of a potential witness. In response to this phenomenon, some law enforcement officials now advocate parking vehicles in unlit areas under
certain circumstances. They conclude that the light, rather than alerting witnesses, only illuminates the criminal's work area.
The alternative to the current lighting strategy is not necessarily darkness. Technology is now available that will supply white light only when it is
needed by using motion sensitive devices. Lighting on demand may not be as energy conscious as some of the energy efficient high intensity discharge (HID)
sources, but it saves energy by not being on when light is not required. It also has the ability to attract attention to an area when attention is required
by reducing the public's immunity to light. Witnesses can more easily identify culprits because the light reacts to any movement in the area.
So what's the Problem?
The big problem is still the lack of awareness of the issues, the problem, and the common sense solutions. Education is a big part of fixing the problem.
The second problem is apathy. Even with awareness, action is needed. Some consider it too big a problem, others that it is not important enough. Here at
the NJAA we have a full time Light Pollution Chairman that goes around to make people aware of this problem. He need help -- talk to your neighbors and
your local government officials. Light Pollution can be corrected one town at a time.
What Can We Do?
A. Start with your own house. Take a long hard look. Make sure your outdoor lights are directed down to the ground where it is needed. Pick the
correct light bulbs for the task.
B. Control the amount of light for the job required. Use the right amount of light for the task, not overkill. "More Light" is not the approach to
use. When not blinded by glare, the eye is a marvelous instrument and can see very well at what "seems" to be low, lighting levels. In additions, going
from an overly lit area to darker areas means that we don't see as well, and the opposite holds as well. Remember the simple phrase "See the light, not the
C. Use time controls (such as motion sensors or dimmers). By using these devices you are only using light when you need it. Manufacturers of
dusk-to-dawn lighting instills the fear in people that if your yard is not all lit up that it will be a magnet for burglars. The truth is that tests have
been done and there is no correlation between bright lights and burglaries. What would be a better deterrent in scaring off a burglar than a set of lights
quickly going on when the burglar gets picked up by a motion detector.
D. Write to your mayor and town council. Let them know that there are simple ways to save on energy costs, ease the stress on the environment and
the stress on our own health. The below links will help you investigate light pollution further.
some excepts from the IDA
Local Light Pollution News Archive
International Dark Sky Assn. Every amateur astronomer should be a member!! Every single one!!
Light Pollution Awareness Website
Sky & Tel Store - Help LP and dress up your car at the same time!
The Dark Sky Institute A solution to light pollution
Hackensack Now light pollution forum
Light Conscience CompaniesAffordable Lamps - A Guide to Light Pollution
Starry Night Lights - night sky friendly lighting retailer
Rab Electric Manufacturing - an NJ company that specializes in non light polluting fixtures
Soft Lighting Systems - for sports fields
Musco Sports Lighting
Important Light Pollution ReportsNew Jersey Light Pollution Study Commissions Report
IDA Outdoor Lighting Code Handbook Version 1.11
Clinton Twp., NJ Light Pollution Ordinance - NEW
Light Pollution Articles - not all articles mention NJ, BUT one can easily substitute the state in the article for NJ with no problem at all. NJ has a big Light Pollution Problem!Blinded By the Light Video - NEW
Where has the Sky Gone?
Are the Lights Too Bright?
Sky & Telescope Light Pollution Notes
Dear Abby and Light Pollution
Light Pollution and Health
Scientists Say Darkness Benefits Health (ABC-TV) - NEW
Power Plant Pollution = DEATH
Clear the Air
Light Pollution and the Flora and FaunaLight Pollution in Kalamazoo
Light Pollution Threatens Animal Navigation
Light Pollution and the Food Chain
Seatrout vs. Light Nuisance
Artificial Light and the Ecology
The NJAA operates on leased premises administered by The State of New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry