Light Pollution

Each night almost of a third of the light used out-of-doors escapes into the night sky where, instead of providing useful illumination, it causes glare, sky glow and other types of light pollution. About 2.500 individual stars should be visible to the human eye in an unpolluted night sky; but in a typical suburb only 200 to 300 stars are visible, and in a city, fewer than a dozen stars may shine through the artifically lit sky.

In addition to compromising the quality of the environment, light pollution amounts to an enormous amount of wasted energy. The International Dark-Sky Association estimates that each year in the United States, over $1 billion dollars is spent to generate this wasted light.

The most common causes of light pollution are streetlights that fail to deliver all of their light downward, outdoor security lights around buildings, billboards lit from below, landscape illumination directed upward, and businesses like convenience stores and gas stations that operate under extremely high levels of illumination.

Many of municipalities, counties and states have adopted, or are considering adopting, ordinances designed to limit light pollution. We have listed a few of the strategies that stand out. The International Dark-Sky Association is the primary on-line resource for light pollution information.

Light Pollution – Sanibel Island, FL

Initially outdoor light ordinances were adopted by communities with research observatories at the urging of astronomers. But star-gazing is not the only reason for regulating night lighting. Many of Florida's oceanfront communities have adopted lighting codes to protect the nesting sea turtles along beaches. Sea turtle hatchlings instinctively head toward light. Before electric lighting, bioluminescence and the reflection of the moon on the water made the ocean brighter than the land. But due to light pollution, hatchlings often head inland. The strict limits on street lighting on Sanibel Island aim to remedy the imbalance between the unnatural brightness of the shoreline and the natural bioluminescence of the sea.… Read More

Light Pollution – Springfield, VT

Through the implementation of light pollution reduction design and technologies and an off-site mitigation plan, Springfield, Vermont will be home to a new state prison, but will keep its dark night skies.

WhenStellafane, a local astronomy organization with observatories just four miles from the proposed site of the Southern State Correctional Facility, raised opposition to the construction of the prison, the state hired Clanton and Associates, a lighting engineering firm, to design an outdoor lighting plan that would minimize light pollution.

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Light Pollution – Tucson/Pima County, AZ

In the heart of downtown Tucson, Arizona, a city of nearly 500,000, one can view the Milky Way with the naked eye. Tucson and Pima County first adopted outdoor lighting ordinances in 1972 in an effort to provide standards so that night lighting did not interfere with nearby astronomical observatories. The lighting control ordinance of Tucson/Pima County has been revised many times over the years. The 2006 Code is still quite strong and it is copied below.… Read More
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Lisa Gonzalez

Lisa Gonzalez researched and reported on telecommunications and municipal networks' impact on life at the local level. Lisa also wrote for and produced ILSR's Broadband Bits podcast.