Attempts again underway to protect the night sky
January 25, 2009
A panel discussion on the causes, prevention and ecological consequences of light pollution will take place at 7 p.m. on February 9, 2009 in the Plaster Student Union Theatre of Missouri State University, Springfield. The challenge of preserving dark skies in our national parks is a specific issue that will be discussed.

Participants will include Buell Jannuzi, Chadwick A. Moore and Travis Longcore. Jannuzi is head of Kit Peak National Observatory and board member of the International Dark Sky Association. He is a Harvard graduate who earned a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Arizona. Moore has a master's degree in earth science and is program manager for the US National Park Service 'Night Sky Team.' An author/lecturer, Longcore is research associate professor of geography and director of urban ecological research at the USC Center for Sustainable Cities and science director of The Urban Wildlands Group.

"During my review of the Missouri and Kansas Night Sky Protection acts, I found several parks in good condition but was unable to identify a state park or Federal Class 1 Area with completely light pollution free night sky," said Robert Wagner, a spokesperson for the Kansas City, MO-based International Dark-Sky Association.

In Kansas the Committee on Energy and Utilities filed House Bill No. 2064 in an attempt to "reduce the amount of light emitted into the nighttime sky to near natural levels for protected places." The act would require the monitoring of light pollution in state parks that allow camping and military installations with night training requirements. After documenting the origins of the light pollution, Kansas will publish voluntary compatible development guidelines to help communities control light pollution, save money and preserve natural skies for observation, recreation and training. A statewide goal of near natural visibility conditions for protected areas is hoped to be achieved by 2055.

The Missouri Legislature is expected to file similar legislation in upcoming weeks. HB 1727, introduced at the end of August 2008 attempted to establish the "Night Sky Protection Act to reduce the amount of light emitted into the night sky to near natural levels for specified places." Introduced by Walt Bivins (R-97), it languished in committee.

Potential negative effects of light pollution on training is encouraging military interest in this environmental problem. The Department of Defense consistently expresses the need to "train as we fight," emphasizing 24-hour operations and stressing "our fighting men and women must train in realistic, natural environments," according to Wagner. While the military must be able to carry out their mission in remote locations where light pollution doesn't exist, light pollution throughout the Midwest has resulted in a night sky several times brighter than natural conditions, he said.

A public affairs convocation series event, "Sustainable Skies: Light Pollution, Its Causes, Consequences and Prevention" is open to the public. Parking is available in visitors lot 13 on the Missouri State campus. For more information send an e-mail to Dr. Alexander Wait here or to Dr. Terrel Gallaway here.

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Light Pollutionastrobab112302009-01-26 06:50:56