Kelly Beatty thinks more amateur astronomers should be members of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), and he puts his money where his mouth is on the issue. Beatty, a senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine and a board member of the IDA, made an offer to waive his usual fee for speaking at the recent Seattle Astronomical Society banquet if the group could sign up at least ten new or renewing IDA members. At last word they’d added at least a couple of dozen.
“That means that roughly one in a hundred amateur astronomers across the U.S. are members of IDA,” Beatty pointed out. “Isn’t that pathetic?”
“What other group has more to gain or lose from the success of the IDA and our dark sky preservation efforts?” he asked.
Beatty noted that LED street lighting is a major issue, and one on which regular citizens can help. If your city or town hasn’t converted street lights to LED yet, it probably will soon. LED street lights can be cheaper in a couple of ways. They consume less energy than typical street lights (though this paradoxically can cause a municipality to just buy more light), and the fixtures have a longer expected life span. What is important is that cities use fixtures that are at a color temperature of 3,000 kelvins or less. This provides warmer light with less blue in the spectrum. Blue light brightens the night sky more than any other color of light, and exposure to blue light at night has also been shown to harm human health and endanger wildlife.
Beatty said that the city of Phoenix recently decided to install 2,700-kelvin streetlights, Montreal dropped plans to install lights at 4,000 kelvins, and the entire state of Georgia is going with 3,000-kelvin lights.
“You have the power to make a difference in this fight against light pollution, individually and collectively,” Beatty said. “It’s not that people are opposed to doing the right thing, they just don’t know. It’s an education. So if you inject yourself into the process you can and will make a difference.”
IDA’s page about outdoor lighting basics and its LED practical guide have lots of useful information. Oh, and you can sign-up online. There’s a $15 annual membership for students, and standard memberships start at just $35.