DARK SKIES: The glow on the horizon of this photo is light pollution.
DARK SKIES: The glow on the horizon of this photo is light pollution. Contributed Dom Wall

OPINION: Time to turn down the lights

WHAT is Dark Sky anyway? Simply put, it means the night skies are not lit-up from thousands of street and commercial lights that drown out the stars and Milky Way, that is so relevant in cities, suburbs and large country towns.

This glow is what astronomers call light pollution. So much so, the International Dark Sky Association, the International Astronomical Union and NASA predict that if light pollution is not slowed down by 2100, 98 per cent of the world's total land mass and many parts of the oceans, will be lit-up ten fold, cancelling out humanity's chances to see a starry night sky. Future generations will never know what a dark, starry sky looks like, except in some futuristic electronic form.

While country people take their dark skies for granted, those in the cities who never see stars due to light pollution, are absolutely amazed to see so many stars out in the rural sector, and if we don't protect that dark environment now, my prediction for the South Burnett and the Bunyas, is that by 2050 there will no night sky as we know it.

All will be lost due to commercial and residential lighting expansion. Losing our dark skies from lack of planning would be sacrilege to say the least, as future generations would not know what a star-studded night sky looked like.

Nocturnal animals who rely on the darkness for their existence would also disappear faster. According to documented reports from universities around the world and WWF, it's estimated 10 per cent of the world's nocturnal species disappear every year. At this rate, in 100 years from now, there will be little to no nocturnal animals left on this planet, due to light pollution.

So what can be done? Well, we can start by using common sense when installing outdoor residential and commercial lighting. Only use what is necessary and shade the bulb so its light goes to ground, not up into the night sky. Local government town planners should also use logic when planning development projects. Ergon have aero-screen hoods that have the bulb well up into the hood and the amber light goes to the road, not into driver's eyes, houses and the night sky.

These lights are far less costly to run than the current ones you see at night. In 2005, Ergon installed these lights in Maidenwell to help maintain the dark town skies.

The International Dark Sky Association has a simple set of guidelines for outdoor lighting that will not only help save the night skies, but also helpful suggestions on how to cut down power bills when using outdoor residential and commercial lighting.

As the old saying goes: "Protect and preserve what you have now, otherwise it will lost forever if you don't”.

If you have a space-related question or want to make a stargazing booking to the observatory, email mao123@bigpond.com or phone James on 0427 961 391.

Web: www.kingaroyobservatory.com.

Next week: Skies for August.

- James Barclay

South Burnett

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