Earth Changes TV/Report - ECTV's Report On The Recent TAAS Conference
- ECTV's Report On The Recent TAAS Conference...09/29/02
by Mitch Battros (ECTV)
The theme of The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS) was "Light Pollution". It is becoming a fast concern of many in the field of astronomy. A vivid and alarming visual presentation was given by Chad Moore and Dan Duriscoe. Both are with the U.S. National Park Service. Chad Moore, whose Master Degree is in Earth Science, is stationed at Pinnacles National Monument. Dan Duriscoe who is also a Earth Scientist, is stationed at Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. They have teamed up to produce the first "data base" showing how even the darkest skies in the world are rapidly becoming encroached by urban lighting.
In my personal interview with both Dan and Chad, I asked what the dangers or repercussions may be to people. Their answer indicated it is mostly related to aesthetics. They made the point of how important it is to most individuals to be able to see nature (and space) in its most pristine conditions. Dan Duriscoe made a statement that is hard to argue. He said "isn't that why you go to a national park in the first place. To interact with nature that strikes a cord with our most primal instincts and needs." I replied to Dan with a strong affirmative...YES!. I believe aesthetics are very important. It gives pleasure and comfort and maybe even belonging.
Chad Moore and Dan Duriscoe's ground breaking research has taken them around the nation, to some of the most remote area's in the world. They have collected a series of seamless photographs showing the precise variations of artificial light interference. These fields of assorted light structures are known as "Light Domes". Scientist from around the world are using their collected data formulating the basis of a world-wide field study known as the "Night Sky Team".
But wait, is that all there is to a new field of study called "Light Pollution"? The answer is no. In my interview with Dr. Steve Gregory - Physicist, Astronomer and Professor at the University of New Mexico states, "It is also showing to affect humans and animals as well. Dr. Gregory is the Associate Director of UNM's Institute of Astrophysics and Director of Capilla Peak Observatory in the Manzano Mountains.
Dr. Gregory asserts the following; "We are all on a natural cycle. Research has shown that birds as well as animals have been thrown off their habitual patterns due to light pollution. In the larger metropolitan areas, sequenced photography shows there is no longer "night and day". It is light all the time." Dr. Gregory went on to say that many of our major observatory's are no longer useful due to their positioned vicinity to developed areas.
What a sad revelation to discover. It is my belief that such an occurrence could very well be contributing to mental health issues. Perhaps mood disorders such as depression, hyperactivity, or chronic fatigue can be directly attributed to the interference of natural rhythm patterns. This is such a new and cutting edge field of research, no one knows for certain just what the ramifications of light pollution is causing.
I was fascinated to hear Dr. Steve Gregory's statement that much of the subjective variability of photographs taken to measure light encroachment, are due to charged particles such as 'Aurora's'. Yes, this is to say that the Sun and its activity has been shown to affect telescope visibility to the night sky. Geomagnetic storms, CME's, Solar Flares, Magnetic Field Shifts all play a part, in the way of charges particles, and our ability to monitor the skies.
I had the great pleasure to meet and interview Dr. Kurt Anderson. He is a professor of Astronomy at New Mexico State University. He is a astrophysicist and past-President of the New Mexico Academy of Science. Dr. Anderson is also Director of Apache Point Observatory near Sunspot, New Mexico. With Dr. Anderson's background, I could not help but ask about asteroids, comets, and minor planets. My question was 'does this new field of study regarding 'light pollution', have an effect on astronomers ability to discover or track asteroids and comets'? Dr. Anderson: "Yes. I can say it mostly affects our ability to track or discover comets, more than asteroids. Comets have distinct light crystals that are often described as 'tails'. Whereas asteroids, are dark solid structures often made of metals such as nickel and iron.
Of course I also could not help myself but to ask Dr. Anderson about NASA's statement of only being able to track about 10% of current NEO's (near earth orbits) or NEA's (near earth asteroids). I was curious if "light pollution" was part of the problem. The answer was "yes". It appears solar system activity (outside of Earth), does indeed play an important role in life right here in our own back yard.
Dr. Kurt Anderson reminds us a "dark sky is a national resource and an important scientific resource and well worth preserving". ECTV has been invited to Apache Point Observatory as a special guest of Dr. Anderson. Thank you!
In my interview with David Penasa - Director of Electrical Engineering at BPLW and Architectural Engineer, he skillfully outlines five major areas of light pollution. 1) Sky glow - destroys mankind's view of the universe (a national heritage). 2) Light trespass - someone's outdoor lighting encroaches on our property. 3) Glare - blinds us and reduces visibility (Glare is never good). 4) Clutter - trashes the nighttime environment (causes confusion as well). 5) Energy waste - costs us over $1.5B/yr (est.) in USA alone.
David Penasa's contribution to the conference was from an engineering and architectural point of view. David believes an initiation of State and Federal codes could apply to lighting. Just as there are federal building codes, there should be a city or state ordinance regulating the type or power of lighting. There already exist zoning ordinance in most cities, and some cities like Albuquerque, have lighting regulations already in place.
A point was made that this new field of 'Light Pollution', suggest it is like a slowly warming pot of water. If your in the pot, you may not notice the temperature rising until it is too late and begins to boil. David Penasa summarizes by saying "Light pollution is any adverse effect of man-made light used in the night environment". Perhaps someone could turn off the stove burner, and let the water cool down.
Editors Note: A special thanks to Karen Keese. She was in charge of putting the conference together. Karen, you did a first rate job. Your contribution was well accepted and appreciated. Karen is currently the vice-President of The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS). See can be reached at (505) 261-0040. mailto:pr@...
A side note:
For those of you who believe any governing body such as NASA could hide or suppress news of something new or odd coming from space, I would say wake up and smell the coffee. There are simply too many "like-minded" amateur astronomers with their telescopes pointed to the skies who simply could not be controlled. For you Planet-X enthusiast (and a few freaks), I assure you if any form of a celestial orb whatsoever, was to enter the range of some very powerful telescopes, NASA may be the last to know. I stake my reputation on it. (Mitch Battros).
Unless you have met the quality of scientist (both amateur and professional) as I have outlined in this report, and you wish to convey statements of so-called Russian Scientist, or anyone else, I will expect exceptional evidence to back up your claims. Otherwise my response to your chatter will simply be "No Thank You".
Next Saturday October 5th, I have been invited to join TAAS to Chaco Canyon where we will have access to the Chaco Canyon Observatory which includes a domed platform mounted 24" reflector telescope. What else can I say!
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