— “to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting” — 

Do you remember when we could actually look up at the night sky and see the stars? It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago, but maybe it was. I miss it.

Having lived in cities, even relatively small ones, for the last several years, I realize I can’t just walk outside at night and see the Milky Way, Orion, or the aurora borealis. I must travel longer and longer distances from my home whenever I want to watch meteor showers, once-in-a-lifetime planetary alignments, lesser constellations, or even the North Star. Sigh.

As more parts of the world become industrialized and electrified, more lights go on and stay on at night. Images of the phenomenon captured by satellites can be seen on the DarkSky website, which is the home of the International Dark-Sky Association, a group concerned about the level of light pollution around the globe. These folks define light pollution as “any adverse effect of man-made light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, & light clutter.”

The group includes serious scientists who can calculate the amount of extraneous illumination in the dark atmosphere, as well as people who are supporters of sound environmental policy. The site offers many useful steps you can take in your community to begin replacing outdated city — and private — lighting with more cost-effective and efficient units that direct light where it’s needed (down) without spilling it (up) into space. For you activists in the crowd, a sample city ordinance is available.

The DarkSky website offers an extensive array of educational materials, any of which could be used to make credible presentations to community and governmental leaders. There’s even a link to a children’s book (There Once Was A Sky Full of Stars) that donates part of its proceeds to the cause.

The Dark Sky Finder on the site’s main page identifies places within a 60-mile radius of your location where reasonably decent night-sky viewing is possible.

Check the site’s Images section to see global satellite photography of the world illuminated at night — demonstrating the incredible extent of current light pollution.

Copyright ©2013 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos