22 March 2005

Light pollution

Another issue that's been bugging me recently is the relatively great amount of light pollution that such a small town as College Station produces.

What is light pollution?

Light pollution occurs when an outdoor light shines not just at the ground but also into the air. An example would be the glowing spherical lights on a pole; roughly half of the light it emits goes straight up in the air.

What is wrong with light pollution?

Mainly two things.
  1. It's a waste of energy. If the light pointed up were reflected down, that would increase the intensity of the light on the ground by roughly a factor of two; or, they could turn the power usage down to half and still get about the same brightness on the ground as the original lamp configuration.
  2. It destroys the night sky. I'm not familiar with the exact numbers, but the magnitude of the stars that are visible in the sky drops dramatically. The weekend before last, I went to Enchanted Rock (a state park, plenty of distance away from bright cities), and when I took a look at the sky after it was dark, I was absolutely stunned by the sky (it had been a while since I had last been camping or far away from cities with a clear sky). At A&M, on the other hand, you look up on a clear night and you'll see a few stars and planets; on a cloudy day, you'll see a pink glow. From several miles away from the campus, you will still see a pink glow over where the lights are. This is not good.

What can I do to make light pollution go away?

Probably nothing. You could try petitioning the different people in charge, but sadly, chances favor their not caring. If they were to pay attention, you would tell them to modify their lamps so that they didn't shine straight up in the sky.

End of poorly assembled rant.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more! Perhaps if you were to submit a letter to the city council on how it would save the city money...or you could present it as some engineering project for a graduating senior.....perhaps it would be in the Engineering Technology dept.'s area of expertise. When I went to A&M I thought the same thing. Now I live an hour from a big city and we have millions of stars again!
(FYI: I hopped over here from Liz's blog)

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