Ros Wynne-Jones: Stars – the essential magic vanishing from our lives in the Guardian.
Turn out the lights: the stargazers’ plea for dark skies was also in Friday’s Guardian and is worth a look.
Some 53% of those who joined a recent star count failed to see more than 10 stars in the Orion constellation. That had decreased only very slightly from 54% since 2007, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Campaign for Dark Skies said.
Fewer than one in 10 said they could see between 21 and 30 stars, and just 2% of people had truly dark skies, seeing 31 or more stars.
The information was gathered as part of the annual Star Count survey, which was held across two weeks in January and February this year. Almost 1,000 people in different locations around the country took part. Participants were instructed to pick a clear night to count the number of stars in the constellation of Orion.
The forces of dark are squaring off against the forces of light in a battle over billboard legislation.
On the side of light — as in vivid, flashing color — is the electronic-billboard industry. It is pushing a bill that would make 70 existing digital billboards along Arizona’s highways legal in the wake of a state Court of Appeals ruling.
The forces of darkness are led by Arizona’s observatories and astronomy industry. They want a statewide standard to ensure “dark skies” protections for areas within a 75-mile radius of observatories.
Since when was astronomy an industry? I suppose if there are enough people based there making telescopes that might be justified, but it seems like odd language. Mind you, it’s the language used in an opinion piece by Angela Cotera, a research astrophysicist at the SETI Institute in Avondale, arguing against the law. Anyway, returning to the original article:
Billboard companies approached lawmakers for a change to state law after the Appeals Court last fall ruled electronic billboards did not comply with the state’s ban on intermittent light.
Meanwhile, this seems a bit surprising:
The Discovery Channel, which is building a new telescope southeast of Flagstaff near Happy Jack, told lawmakers that the limits would help ensure dark skies. Its imaging camera “will be sensitive to even minute increases in sky glow.”
When did TV stations start building telescopes?
The Legislature has unaccountably passed a bill that threatens a unique and precious Arizona asset: our dark skies. Gov. Jan Brewer needs to veto it.
and goes on to say
In this intensely competitive economy, Arizona is fortunate to have a major advantage in astronomy and optics. Our clear, dark nights offer a world-class view of the universe. Arizonans count on Gov. Brewer to protect them. Gov. Brewer should push the off switch on HB 2757.