Air Clean Up

  • Campaign Launches to Highlight Damage of Light Pollution on Stars

Campaign Launches to Highlight Damage of Light Pollution on Stars

May 23 2015 Read 2137 Times

You may not think that light pollution, the brightening of the night’s sky by artificial means, would be a problem that requires urgent attention. But a pair of students noticed that this type of pollution can have an effect on human and animal health, upset eco systems, and can disrupt nocturnal wildlife.

Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinovic were photographers studying for a Masters in Directing at the American Film Institute. They were attempting to portray the stunning beauty of the Milky Way over the city of Los Angeles, with a set of flick books. However, the unremitting brightness produced by LA’s expansive metropolis meant that any chance of capturing the stars was lost.

In order to create their flick books the pair had to travel to locations where the skies were noticeably darker, and it was during these excursions they noticed the difference: “The inspiration for the entire thing came from capturing the galaxy in dark sky locations in our attempts to escape light pollution. The more we did this the more we realised light pollution has a big impact and effect on people in more ways than we know,” said Gavin.

What are the effects of light pollution?

Medical experts suggest that exposure to excessive light can cause an increase in anxiety, a decrease in sexual function, headaches, fatigue and can impact mood and alertness.

Light pollution, also known as skyglow, can also affect wildlife and ecosystems, in particular - nocturnal organisms. It can alter animal navigation, confuse migration patterns, change interactions, and disrupt the natural rhythm between light and dark. It has been known for years now that lights on the top of tall buildings can disorient high flying birds. This has become such a problem that in Toronto, Canada, the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), works with building owners to turn off lights at night.

Light pollution can also affect plants, which then have a knock-on effect on insects and small mammals. For instance, night flowering plants that require moths for pollination may not bloom if the surrounding light is too bright. This could lead to a decline in this species of plant and moths. One of the obvious problems with light pollution is the waste of energy. Lighting uses one-fourth of all electricity consumption, and night-time is one area where cuts could be made. However, estimates show that light pollution is set to grow by 6% a year, with the developed world losing all of its dark skies by the end of the 21st century.

Light pollution is one area however, that the individual can make a difference:

“Of all the pollutions we face, light pollution is perhaps the most easily remedied. Simple changes in lighting design and installation yield immediate changes in the amount of light spilled into the atmosphere and, often, immediate energy savings,” said Verlyn Klinkenborg in his blog on light pollution.

The SkyGlow Light Pollution Kickstarter Campaign

As for Heffernan and Mehmedinovic, they have now launched a campaign via Kickstarter in order to showcase the stunning beauty of the sky at night. The campaign is also to show the damaging effects of light pollution.

The pair hope that the campaign will raise funds which will then be put towards future trips along the west coast of America and Canada. Here, further photographs will be produced. A book will then be published which will educate the public about the issues of light pollution.

The campaign has been relatively successful, with around half the money raised so far: “We have 12 days left on the Kickstarter campaign and have raised about half of the money ($34,765),” said Gavin. “We need $40,000 though otherwise all could be lost – it’s kind of exciting and dramatic.”

The pictures that will feature in the book were taken on around five-to-six Canon 6D and 5D mark III cameras. Low light sensors were used, alongside a long exposure in order to capture the stars travelling across the night’s sky.  

Gavin’s final goal is to get everyone talking about the Milky Way: “It’s not an issue at the forefront of people’s minds but when was the last time you saw the Milky Way? Everyone has a story about the first time they saw it, but it’s become a forgotten thing. We wanted to start a project that would highlight the night sky and also address a bigger issue.”

To read more about the UK’s efforts to assess and reduce light pollution see our article Night Sky Mapping Project May Help Reducing Carbon Emissions.

Image Source: Milky Way

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