Although we don’t have a chapter nearby, our club has used the resources of the
International Dark-Sky Network, an organization that focuses on raising awareness of the adverse affects of light pollution. We support them not just because light pollution and sky glow make it harder for us to see faint objects, but because light pollution causes many other problems as well.
For astronomers, sky glow reduces the contrast between celestial objects, and makes it much harder to see fainter objects. That forces me, Amy, and all our fellow amateurs here to drive farther and farther to find a dark sky.
In the war against light, we can flock our telescope tubes with a dark cloth or use light shields. We can also use filters on our scopes that filter out the spectral lines that are emitted by sodium and mercury-vapor lamps, but these filters also reduce the brightness of objects and limit the use of higher magnifications.
Although it’s an inconvenience for us, scientists are finding that light pollution is a much more serious problem for nocturnal animals and plants. Artificial lighting affects how animals and insects interact. It prevents zooplankton from eating algae, which contributes to those nasty algae blooms that kill off lake plants and lower the quality of water. Moths and nocturnal insects change their pollination patterns, and artificial lighting causes all sorts of problems for Sea Turtles, frogs, and salamander hatchlings.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that four to five million birds are killed each year after being attracted to tall, lit towers. Migrating birds may also need polarized moonlight for navigation, which becomes invisible under heavy light pollution.
So light pollution is not just a problem for us amateurs, but also for our environment as well. If you or your club are not aware of or supporting the activities of the International Dark-Sky Network, this is a good time to get educated. Their website is also a terrific resource if, for example, you have a neighbor with a new sodium lamp that lights up the farms for miles, or you hear that a new car dealership is going up in your town.
Spend some time on their website and learn all about their efforts. You can help spread their message in your community, and you will be doing some good for your fellow astronomers and for the environment as well.