Dark Skies: an Endangered Natural Resource

SSP Technical Forum
Diane Turnshek, Department of Physics (CMU) and Department of Physics and Astronomy (Pitt)

“Dark Skies: an Endangered Natural Resource”

The US National Parks have adopted the slogan, “Half the Park Is After Dark.” Recognizing the sky is a natural resource is hard for people who live in cities and can’t see the Milky Way because of light pollution, which now comprises 80% of the population in the US. Advocacy for dark skies has many fronts: issues of public safety, human health and wellbeing, disruptions in the lives of plants and animals, concerns for astronomical research, and energy waste that raises our carbon footprint substantially and unnecessarily. It is the only form of pollution that can be fixed with the flip of a switch, so education is the key to correcting the problem. “Light Smart” means light just what you need, where you need it, at the brightness level needed and only when necessary. Consider shielding lights, using motion sensors, timers, dimmers and choosing LEDs at temperatures of 2700K or below. Don’t we all have the right to see a star-filled sky?

Diane Turnshek is a lecturer in the Department of Physics (CMU) and the Department of Physics and Astronomy (Pitt). She runs the Astronomy Public Lecture Series at Allegheny Observatory and coordinates outreach through PghConstellation.com. She’s taught astronomy at seven local schools, beginning in 1981, and been a presenter at the Buhl Planetarium. She gave a light pollution TEDxPittsburgh talk, curated a series of space art galleries, founded the local chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and was presented with an IDA Dark Sky Defender Award. With Chloe Nightingale, she edited the Parsec Ink 2019 anthology Triangulation: Dark Skies. She was elected to the organizing committee of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) B7 – Inter-Division B-C Commission Protection of Existing and Potential Observatory Sites and is planning an IAU meeting on light pollution in South Korea in 2021. Twitter: @dianeturnshek