Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report


154. A memorandum to us asked would people accept the daytime blue sky being turned orange by pollution?[208] Many people in the United Kingdom may have been unaware of the increase in light pollution. For some time now people living in urban areas have been amazed by the "difference" of the rural night sky to that viewed from towns or cities. However, evidence has shown that uncontrolled light pollution is now reaching the previously dark remote areas of countryside.

155. People have a right to feel safe and secure in their homes, to travel safely on the roads at night and to enjoy the amenities of the towns and cities where they live. Homes, streets, sports facilities, and historic buildings can all be lit effectively without the need to light up the night sky. Any light spilling above the horizontal is causing sky glow and light trespass and is preventing astronomical observations. It is also wasting energy and causing distress to an increasing number of people.

156. We consider that the astronomical community in this country is a particularly strong one and that it should be encouraged by the Government. Amateur astronomers not only support major professional projects through day to day observations, but also donate much of their time to introducing the general public and young people to the night sky, astronomy and through that initial interest, very often into a physics career.

157. We have prepared this Report to emphasise the importance of protecting astronomy as a science in this country. If we are to invest heavily in observatories abroad, we must also invest in the young scientists of today who will work in La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and Chile in the future. It is worth protecting the night sky for the use of astronomy pupils and students, amateurs and professional astronomers alone. However, Professor Sir Martin Rees provided an analogy when he pointed out that we may not all be ornithologists but we would miss the song birds in our gardens.[209]

158. The Government may not consider the effect of light pollution on astronomy in the UK to be a pressing issue, but amateur astronomers have taken on the issue on behalf of those who mourn the loss of the night sky, not only astronomers but also the general public, and those affected by the unwelcome intrusion of light. If the Government accepts this Report's recommendations it will start the process of reducing light pollution. In 20 years time it might then be possible for young people studying astronomy to see the Milky Way in the UK night skies once more.

208   Ev 54 Back

209   Ev 228 Back

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