About C.C. Petersen

I am a science writer and media producer specializing in astronomy and space science content. This blog contains news and views about these topics.

Light Pollution and Me… and YOU

Keep our Skies Dark and our Outlook Good

Learn about Light Pollution in Losing the Dark

A poster about “Losing the Dark”, a show explaining the issues around light pollution.

A few years ago we were honored to be asked to create a short video called Losing the Dark — about light pollution for the International Dark-Sky Association. It was produced for use in both fulldome theaters and flat-screen venues. It’s available in 17 languages (plus English), and has been used around the world.

We just found out that it will be featured at the upcoming Starlight: Beyond Light Pollution leadership training forum in La Palma this July. It’s a great honor to be selected for this prestigious event. I was just looking over the schedule and it looks like a fabulous experience where you can learn a lot about all the issues, and participate in some cool excursions around the island and a trip to Roque de las Muchachos astronomy observatory.  If you’re at all interested in astronomy, dark skies, astrophotography, and want to visit a great place, this looks like a wonderful event!

If you do sign up, let them know I recommended it.  (How could I NOT?  They’re showing my movie!!) I might get a chance to go if enough people sign up under my recommendation. If I can’t get there, I’ll do my darnedest to Skype in and help spread the world about sensible lighting practices.

Light Pollution in a Community

Light pollution is something you really come to take for granted when you live in a city or town. A lot of people don’t realize just how murky the night skies get from wasteful lighting practices until they get out in the countryside away from all of it. Then, they marvel at the beauty of the sky.

But, as we point out in the video, light pollution takes a toll on more than just the stars. It can actually pose a danger to health and safety. Case in point: not far from where I live, there’s a school shining an incredibly, intensely bright light right into people’s faces as they drive around the corner of a mountain road at night. One second you’re in the dark, the next second, you’re hit with a beam that dazzles the eyes.  On a rainy, wet or icy  night, that moment’s incapacitation could be fatal.

I and others have written to the school about this issue, and I’ve heard they’re considering at least changing the angle of the light so it doesn’t pose such a problem. It also shines directly into nearby windows, which is actually against the light trespass law. One neighbor said it is so bright it lights up their bedroom, despite having curtains. Intrusive lighting can affect a person’s health, and there are a studies backing this up. So, a little gentle education in the direction of safety will still maintain the school’s security and let the neighbors sleep at night. And, they’re not wasting money pointing light to the sky instead of the building.

This is the kind of thing that can be done in many areas — promoting sensible use of light not just for astronomy, but safety and health as well.  In reading over the schedule for the conference, it looks like the organizers are not only teaching about those issues, but also acquainting attendees with the glory of the night sky!  A win-win all the way around.

Join the Fight Against Light Pollution

Whether you head to La Palma or not, if you’re interested in mitigating lighting issues in your community, please consider joining in with the folks at the International Dark-Sky Association. Their mission is simple: the safe and effective use of light without lighting up the sky or affecting the neighbors.  Visit their website to learn more about the organization. I’ve been a member and worked with them for years to help spread the word!



Bright-Eye Telescope Focuses on the Cosmos

Get Started in Astronomy with a Cool New Telescope

the Bright-Eye Telescope prototype.

A prototype of the Bright-Eye telescope. Courtesy of Everything in the Universe.

A bunch of years ago, I bought my first telescope. It was red and shaped like a grenade-launcher. It has been a trooper. I traveled around Peru with it, and used it show people Halley’s Comet.  Even after I left South America to come home, the scope stayed there another six weeks, traveling with other astronomers through Peru and Chile.

This same trusty scope still does its job from the deck of our house and is still going strong. It’s an Astroscan, and it’s been a great little scope. Portable, easy to use, and cheap. Unfortunately, the company that used to make them broke the molds, and they’re no longer available new. (Lots of them are on sale on eBay, though…)

Well, it seems the trusty scope is coming back, but from a different source. The same guy who designed the Astroscan now has the “Daughter” telescope in development through his own company. Norm Sperling has a Kickstarter going to fund the creation of a better and more modern version, called the Bright-eye Telescope. It looks like a great project, and as a user of Norm’s previous invention, I am pretty sure he’s got another winner on his hands.

Want to get involved and eventually get one of these babies? Check out the Bright-Eyes campaign at Kickstarter. And, also be sure and read Norm’s temporary company website for more details. If you’ve feeling a bit flush, please consider giving some money to help the project along. It sure looks like it’ll be another great idea, and here’s the beauty: using this little scope, you can do some stargazing very quickly, whether you’re a newbie or an experienced observer.  This thing (based on the one I have now) is SO easy to set up and use that you’ll wonder why you didn’t get one sooner! Go help out Norm and let’s get these scopes out to the world!