Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report



The majority of professional astronomy now takes place outside of the United Kingdom. This is due to the poor and unpredictable weather conditions of the British Isles, their hemispherical position and to the continuing encroachment of light pollution on British skies. However, astronomy remains a growth subject of academic study, as demonstrated by the increase in the number of students at GCSE, undergraduate and postgraduate level.

This Report emphasises the importance of the amateur astronomy community in the UK. Whilst many observe the stars for purely aesthetic pleasure, there is a thriving community of amateurs who provide important observational data to grateful professional astronomers. Amateur astronomical societies, along with professional astronomers based in the UK, are also instrumental in introducing young and future scientists to astronomy and physics through open days at observatories and by bringing mobile planetaria to schools and groups.

Most importantly of all, amateur societies have been attempting for over ten years to educate local authorities, government, lighting retailers and the general public about the problems caused by light pollution. Light pollution has grown to such an extent that it threatens the remaining dark skies in the rural areas of the UK. Astronomers have been joined by the Campaign to Protect Rural England in an attempt to persuade government that education and exhortion alone are not enough to stem the swathe of light ruining the night sky for everyone. We agree.

This Report provides recommendations on how light pollution can be controlled without reducing the levels of light needed for safe illumination of urban and rural environments.

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Prepared 6 October 2003