Memorandum from Macclesfield Astronomical
Society submitted by Andrew Greenwood, Chairman of the Society
Please find attached written and pictorial (not
printed) evidence in recognition of the need for legislation regarding
the control and eradication of light pollution from the night
This document has been submitted for and on
behalf of the 200-plus active members and guests of the Macclesfield
Astronomical Society. In addition, a petition signed by 83 members
of the Society who attended our last lecture supporting the proposal
has been included.
A series of useful documents produced by the
International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) have been supplied to
provide further information and evidence of the measures that
have been taken in the United States.
We look forward to your response with great
anticipation . . .
299,793,000 milliseconds ...
This, believe it or not, is the time it takes
to completely eradicate light pollution from our environment.
Obviously, I speak of an ideal world scenario.
However, the sad truth and reality of the situation is that we
are doing little or nothing to help cure the source of its origin.
How wonderful it would be if other forms of
environmental pollution could be remedied so very easily.
Society today is so very concerned by the way
we affect the environment around us.
So much so that, we are willing to make fundamental
changes to the way we live our lives from day to day. Ask the
public how they feel about light pollution and how it affects
their everyday environment and they'll probably draw a blank.
Enlighten them a little with some startling facts such as:
Outdoor lighting is one of the most
inefficient uses of energy today.
It was estimated that in 1993, for
the UK's entire street lighting, the annual electricity costs
were around £190 million and annual maintenance costs were
around £80 million. Given that the number of streetlights
is increasing by approximately 2% per annum, one could argue that
the figures are now 20% higher.
The figures shown above relate to
street lighting only and does not include the cost of security,
decorative and sports floodlighting or advertising and merchandising
lighting. It has been estimated that these installations consume
ten times the energy requirements of street lighting.
Deaths of migrating birds caused
by collisions with lighted buildings and the disruption of bird
behaviour caused by the effect of false dawn by street lights.
The decline of our moth population
due to their attraction to lights and ultimately their death.
Disruption of urban tree, shrub and
plant functions that are controlled by day length (eg leaf fall
I'm confident you will find that most people
will be quite taken aback by these statements.
Put simply, light pollution involves the shameful
waste of energy. The principle is very simple: Every photon of
light that shines up into the night sky represents energy that
has been totally squandered.
In addition, it is often forgotten that the
generation of the electricity which powers our lighting systems
nine times out of 10uses finite, non-renewable resources.
Perhaps even worse than the waste of non renewable
energy is the accompanying production of environmental pollutants
such as oxides of sulphur and nitrogen which directly give rise
to acid precipitation. In addition to all of this, wasted energy
results in the generation of greenhouse gases which are thought
to be changing the climatic patterns of the Earth.
If the correct type of light fitments of the
correct power were used and directed to shine their light where
it is needed, then we could quite possibly light one city free
for every two that we pay for. We would cut environmental pollution
associated with light production by one third and conserve the
precious non-renewable energy resources over a longer period of
time. All this, and note that so far, there has been no mention
of light pollution in the sense that is of concern to astronomers
As I am sure you are aware, the bigger picture
is far more subtle than just the brash statements that can be
made about wasted energy. Our recent generations do not realise
that they only need travel back as little as 50 years to find
that light pollution was almost non-existent or at least isolatedhardly
the major problem it is today. And if encountered it was possible
to travel a short distance to escape its grasp.
Can you imagine being able to do that today?
Without doubt, no. Here are some statistics that refer to light
pollution in 1996-97. The situation is undoubtedly worse today:
More than 99% of European Union (EU)
populations and two thirds of the world's population suffer from
some degree of light pollution.
In areas where 96% of the EU population
and half the world's population live, the sky is always at least
as bright as it is when there is a half Moon shining at one of
the world's best observatory sites (where the air is dry and clear).
For many the sky is as bright as it is on days close to a full
Moon. "Night" never really comes to such places and
the sky is always as bright as nautical twilight (the period of
time when the Sun is between six and 12 degrees below the horizon).
About half the EU population and
one fifth of the world's population live where they no longer
have the possibility of seeing the Milky Way with the naked eye.
For one sixth of the EU population
and one tenth of the world's population, it is never dark enough
at night for human eyes to become properly adapted to night vision.
This indicates that all but 1% of the UK's population
have grown up with the pervading orange glow that floods our night-time
sky. As a result, people expect and know no different. Can you
imagine how startled they would be to step back in time 100-150
years and look up at an inky-black sky full of stars. This is
not just a romantic notion. It wasn't so long ago in history that
man required the stars to navigate the globe, know what season
it was, even what the date and time was. Essential crops were
sown and harvested by the rising and setting of certain stars.
The night sky was fundamental to our existence.
If light pollution had existed during that time, I suspect humankind
may well not be as advanced as it is today. That is a brash statement
to make, but may not be as far fetched as it sounds. I quote:
"It is indeed a feeble light that reaches us from the starry
sky. But what would human thought have achieved if we could not
see the stars?"
Jean Perrin 1870-1942French physicist;
Nobel prize for physics 1926.
To bolster this argument, were it not for man's
imagination and burning desire to explain and quantify the interactions
occurring between the stars and the planets travelling across
the night sky, individuals such as Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton
may not have developed Calculus to the extreme degree that they
Without this it would not be possible to have
modern engineering solution and design as sophisticated as we
know it today.
The sorry truth is that a priceless part of
our human heritage is fading into a pseudo-night sky. As a fine
painting by a renowned artist will fade away to a shadow of its
former self if left to the ravages of uncontrolled lighting, the
same can be said for the sky at night. I believe the parallel
is very apt.
The sky is part of humanity's cultural inheritance,
a door to the Universe, part of the rural environment, and a social
amenity. Sky glow reduces this vast celestial spectacle to a pale
imitationa few pinpricks of lightand robs us of
a source of inspiration that has been available to us for thousands
of years and which until quite recently could be taken for granted.
I can only begin to think of the unbelieving
gasps that would be heard if just for a few minutes city lights
across the country were extinguished and people were encouraged
to simply look up and appreciate the wonders above. I cannot think
of a better way to raise awareness of the damaging effects of
light pollution. It's such a good idea that earlier this month
people living in the Eastern, Mountain, Central, Pacific and Hawaiian
time zones of the USA were asked to turn off all nonessential
lighting from 22:00 until 00:00 as part of National Dark-Sky Week.
A simple question:
How many people have never seen a truly dark
sky or the Milky Way from their home?
A positively shameful answer:
About 99% of the population in western Europe.
The Milky Way is our place in the Universe and
it's all but lost to us. As humans we have a desire to understand
our place within it and how we fit within the grand scheme of
things. Most people do not realise it, but everyone has a deep
fascination with "what's up there" and it doesn't take
much to awaken this. Just the briefest look at Saturn, the beautiful
ringed planet, can lead to a lifelong interest in astronomy. Perhaps
this inbuilt fascination is something we may loose completely
in years to come simply because we'll have no reason to look up
at the night skythere'll be nothing to see. This could
quite easily become the case here in the UK in relation to some
of our European neighbourswe share the unwanted accolade
of being the most light polluted country in Europe along with
Light pollution has been advancing relentlessly
in the last few decades. This means that the one percent of the
UK's population who still have a dark sky now, are unlikely to
have so in the next 5-10 years. So why is nothing being done?
In the UK, one of the greatest barriers to effective control is
the lack of inclusion of light pollution in any kind of environmental
protection act as a statutory nuisance. It is vital that this
The issue is not being ignored in other countries
around the World though, the International Dark Sky Association
(IDA) has done enormous amounts to make the citizens of the United
States aware of the problem and through their efforts many States
now have regulations in place to prevent the use of poor and inefficient
lighting. In the Czech Republic there has been a notable breakthrough
in the fight against light pollution. In March 2002, they became
the first country in the world to enact national legislation aimed
at eliminating it. Known as the "Protection of the Atmosphere
Act", the bill was passed and signed into law by President
Vaclav Havel on 27 February 2002. It took effect 1 June 1 2002.
The law defines light pollution as "Every
form of illumination by artificial light which is dispersed outside
the areas it is dedicated to, particularly if directed above the
level of the horizon." Under the law, Czech Republic citizens
and organisations are obliged to "Take measures to prevent
the occurrence of light pollution of the air." It is no accident
that the city of Prague has become a world leader with its legislation
to protect the night sky. The tradition of astronomy extends back
to the 16th century, when the city was transformed into a scientific
and cultural centre by Emperor Rudolf, who invited history's most
significant astronomers, such as Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe,
to study at his court.
The landmark legislation closely resembles the
Lombardy Law, which was enacted in the Lombardy region of Italy
after 25,000 citizens signed petitions demanding action against
obtrusive outdoor lighting. Key to compliance with the new Czech
Republic law is the use of fully shielded light fixtures. Citizens
and organisations found in violation of the law's anti-light pollution
provisions will be subject to fines ranging from 500 to 150,000
Czech Republic astronomer Jenik Hollan, a member
of the IDA, was instrumental in promoting and drafting the legislation.
"Support was very good and no serious objections have appeared"
said Hollan, a resident of Brno who works at the Nicholas Copernicus
Observatory and Planetarium. Pavel Suchan, of the Stefanik Observatory
in Prague, and the Czech Astronomical Society also lobbied for
the new legislation, which Hollan says is already paying off.
"In downtown Brno, fully shielded fixtures are becoming the
norm and the improvement is spectacular." Comments such as
this confirm everything that astronomers in the UK passionately
argue against when it comes to the subject of light pollution.
It also makes us extremely envious ... We applaud the Czechs for
listening and totally embracing the issue. Because of this, we
will continue to remain committed to persuading the UK government
to enact similar legislation.
Further information on the Protection of the
Atmosphere Act can be obtained from: Jenik Hollan (firstname.lastname@example.org
or http://www.astro.cz/darksky) Nicholas Copernicus Observatory
and Planetarium Kraví hora 2, Brno 616 00 Czech Republic
Here in the UK, because of the lack of legislation,
the British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies
has worked hard, but with effectively one hand tied behind its
back, has experienced difficulty in achieving notable success.
The Institute of Lighting Engineers has some
very good technical information and guidance on their website,
but unfortunately few lighting engineers follow it.
In summary, the main issues and solutions are
The basic rule of thumb is if you can see the
bright bulb within a luminaire from a distance, it is a bad light.
A good light, will only show lit ground instead of the dazzling
bulb. Glare is termed the light that beams directly from a bulb
into your eye.
It serves no purpose and hampers the vision
of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.
Poor outdoor lighting shines onto neighbours
properties through windows and into rooms within a house. This
reduces privacy and hinders sleep.
Many outdoor lights waste energy by spilling
much of their light where it is not needed, such as up into the
sky. This waste results in high electricity costs. Each year we
waste millions of pounds needlessly lighting the night sky.
Some homes and businesses are flooded with light
that is much stronger than necessary for safety and security.
Use only the light needed
There is no need to over-light our roads, or
spill light off buildings. Specifying enough light for a given
purpose is sometimes hard to do on paper. A full Moon can light
an area quite brightly, yet some lighting systems illuminate areas
100 times more brightly than this. More importantly, by choosing
properly shielded lights, it is possible to meet needs without
bothering neighbours or polluting the sky.
Aim lights down
Use full-cut off shielded fixtures that stop
light from uselessly shining up or sideways. Full-cut off fixtures
produce minimum glare and create a pleasant looking environment.
They increase safety because they illuminate people, cars, and
terrain without causing glare.
Install fixtures carefully
Maximise the effectiveness of lighting on the
targeted area and minimise impact elsewhere. The proper aiming
of fixtures is crucial. Most are aimed at an angle which is much
too high. Correctly aimed and shielded lights save money. It is
possible to illuminate a target with a low-wattage bulb just as
brightly as wasteful light using a high-wattage bulb.
Place lights on timers wherever possible
Superfluous business lighting should be switched
off at a given time during the night. Home security lights should
always use a motion-detector switch, which turns them on only
when someone enters the area. This provides a much greater deterrent
than a light which is constantly lit.
Consider this question and statement:
Who gains the most from exterior lighting during
the small hours of the night? Someone asleep in bed, an astronomer,
or a criminal?
If there was a water pipe in your house that
lost 40% of its water every time you turned a tap on, you'd be
upset. Yet many of the outdoor light fixtures in use today throw
away a similar percentage of light (and therefore energy).
It is clear that the need for lighting is not
disputed. Lights are required for our safety and security. But
often this lighting is completely misused or inappropriate. One
unshielded security light seen from a mile away is many times
brighter than the brightest stars in the night sky. Additionally,
lighting that is too bright leaves areas of very dark shadow.
This affects our ability to see in the dark and therefore compromises
safety and security.
The good news is that the principles of good
outdoor lighting can be explained in a few minutes. The bad news
is once these principles are understood, almost all lighting we
see in our night-time environment is unsuitable.
As well as stealing the wonders of the night's
sky, light pollution affects our quality of life in other ways
too, and many of us do not even realise it. Significantly, light
pollution robs us of our right to privacy and fair legal use of
our land when glaring unshielded lights shine artificial illumination
onto our property at night. It is an unwelcome violation of our
There are many ways of improving the situation.
A simple and effective solution is to install a reflective "skirt"
around lighting fixtures, which will redirect most of the wasted
light spillage back towards its intended target. This increases
the lamp's efficiency and provides better illumination at no extra
cost. Alternatively, a properly shielded lamp of lower power can
provide the same illumination with the added bonus of lower running
The Government has so far not recognised that
light pollution is a statutory nuisance, or that there is a need
to tighten planning controls over lighting installation for highways,
sporting arenas, car parks, shopping centres and for security
purposes (to name but a few).
Public safety and security at night obviously
requires a certain amount of illumination, and there is clear
evidence that improved lighting leads to reductions in crime.
However, rather than increased surveillance and other types of
deterrent, the benefits of improved lighting are usually attributable
to increased community pride and confidence, which results in
a decrease in both daytime and night-time crime.
Consider someone moving through a garden. Contrary
to belief, security lighting can actually impair an observer looking
for the impostor in several ways:
Glare from the light reduces the
chance of suspicious movements being detected, partly because
shadows are turned inky-black.
Similarly, glare from improperly directed lighting
detracts from security in the same way that a driver's ability
to see the road ahead is impaired by an oncoming car's headlights.
Bright illumination gives the illusion
of occupancy, so neighbours or passers-by are less likely to be
vigilant, or alarmed if suspicious sounds are heard.
Constant bright lighting provides
the perpetrator with a source to assist their activities.
As previously mentioned, we all want and need
security and safety at night. The task is to be safe, not just
to feel safe. This means that we need effective and efficient
lighting. Visibility is the goal. We want to be able to see well,
rather than lighting the criminal's way. This goal exists for
us at home, on the streets, in car parks and at work. Good lighting
can be a help, poor lighting always compromises safety.
Most crime actually occurs during the day, or
inside buildings. However, we want the feeling and the reality
of being safe outside at night. This does not mean installing
the brightest light we can find. What we need is effective lighting,
lighting that puts light where we need it (and nowhere else) and
where it will help visibility.
To do this there must be no glare, no light
trespass, no uplighting, no harsh shadows, or steep transitions
from light to dark. Lighting by itself does not ensure safety,
but quality lighting rather than poor lighting is essential for
any real security.
Here are some examples of bad security lighting,
which can often compromise safety:
The 175-watt dusk-to-dawn security
light. This fixture was designed when good lighting fixture designs
were not available and when the adverse effects of bad lighting
were not well appreciated. It sells for around £20-30, but
uses over 200 watts of power. That means it costs about £50-70
per year to operate in most locations. Much of the light output
is wasted, directed upwards or sideways where it does nogood at
all. It has a great deal of glare, often blinding the homeowner
and others, casts harsh shadows behind trees and buildings and
allows criminals plenty of dark areas to hide in. It is a prime
example of bad lighting, yet hundreds of thousands (probably millions)
are used throughout the country. Why? Because they are cheap and
Globe lighting. Once again, the light
emitted is sent in all directions. This fixture wastes so much
light that it is essential to use a highwattage bulb to get any
kind of useful light on to the ground. This results in a tremendous
amount of glare being produced, so much that in some cases it
is difficult to see the ground over a distance. Why are so many
of these inefficient fixtures used? Mainly because they are aesthetically
pleasing to look at in the daytime.
Poorly designed or installed flood
lights. Flood lighting can do an excellent job, if used in a controlled
fashion, is well-designed and installed to take advantage of its
benefits. This kind of lighting is often used at sports facilities
and is very rarely shielded or aimed correctly towards the intended
area of usage. In slightly hazy weather conditions it is possible
to see domes of light pollution above the fixtures for many miles
Here are some examples of good quality security
Well-shielded low pressure sodium
(LPS) fixtures control light well, are energy efficient and produce
no glare. Visibility is excellent when this kind of LPS lighting
is used. Lack of colour rendering is not a disadvantage for most
Full cut-off high pressure sodium
(HPS) or metal halide (MH) fixtures, similar to those mentioned
above create no uplighting and no glare. However HPS lighting
is not particularly favoured by astronomers because unlike LPS
lighting, it is not possible to filter-out this wavelength of
light using specially designed light pollution filters which many
amateur astronomers use with their telescopes.
Infrared sensors used in conjunction
with spot lights which come on only when someone walks into the
field of view of the (IR) detector.
These are very cost-effective and are most effective
type of security lighting. This type of lighting is more likely
to make intruders think twice about committing crime as their
presence is more likely to be given away by an intermittent flashing
light. However, they must be installed correctly so as to place
light only where it is needed, not spilling up into the sky or
onto a neighbour's property. The best location for such a lighting
fixture is under the eaves of a roof.
Well designed lighting fixtures are starting
to be used, but only in isolated areas. Such places are benefiting
from better lighting for their citizens, considerable energy savings
and darker skiesbut not darker streets. We all really do
win if the correct action is taken.
In the US, it has been found that one effective
method for communities to help solve the problem of light pollution
is to appoint an Outdoor Lighting Working Group, which considers
the issues and recommends specific solutions tailored to local
needs. It has been reported that such committees have been very
effective in areas where they have been implemented. The added
bonus here is that many people become educated regarding the issues.
However, the overriding problem is that there
is still a vast lack of public awareness with regard to the issues,
problems, and common sense solutions. Education is the key. The
second major problem is apathy. Even with awareness, action is
needed. Some consider light pollution too big an issue to become
involved with and others feel that it is not important enough.
Neither is a good enough reason to be indifferent.
As I have reiterated throughout this document,
our ultimate goal should be to restore the dark night sky here
in the UKand around the worldas close to the condition
it previously existed for our historical ancestors, many generations
back in time. Then finally, we can all enjoy the splendour of
a profound natural resource offering a stellar vista that provides
a view of over 10,000 stars on any cloudless summer night of the
I very much hope the efforts in researching,
compiling and writing of this document do not go unnoticed or
unacknowledged. Amateur and professional astronomers alike in
the UK are desperate for action to be taken against light pollution.
The Science and Technology Committee inquiry
sets out five specific questions with regard to light pollution
and astronomy. I believe each of the questions are covered in
depth within the supporting documentation included along with
this extensive overview. However, in answer to the main questions
raised by your document calling for responses the following statements
What has been the impact of light
pollution on UK astronomy?
The impact can and would be described by astronomers
as devastating. The spread of light pollution, especially during
the last four decades, has seemingly been uncontrolled and as
a result has eroded the true beauty of the night sky from view.
It is a sad fact that
only one per cent of the UK's population have access
to truly dark skies and the celestial wonders they contain.
Are current planning guidelines strong
enough to protect against light pollution?
We think not. Without enforced legislation light
pollution will always be
an issue. Developers will generally use inefficient
which do not offer effective light shielding properties
in order to cut
Are planning guidelines being applied
and enforced effectively?
Not unless everyone concerned is aware of the
need to educate and inform. It is clear that the issue of light
pollution is not well understood by the majority of peoplethere
is a significant lack of awareness. If this remains the case,
light pollution will always be a major issue.
Is light measurable in such a way
as to make legally enforceable regulatory controls feasible?
Of course. At its most basic level, the spillage
of excess light into the sky is very easy to measure. Slightly
misty weather conditions are all that's needed. In these conditions
it is easy to see the path of light emitted from any luminaire.
More often than not, unless the fixture is of a full cut-off design
or sufficiently shielded, light can be seen
streaming in all directions beyond the area it is
required and also into the sky.
Obviously, there are many more stringent tests
which could be carried by organisations such as the The Institution
of Lighting Engineers that go beyond the remit of this documentation.
Our overriding concern is of the effect bad lighting is having
Are further controls on the design
of lighting necessary?
We believe this goes hand in hand with the need
to raise awareness. Awareness leads to knowledge, which leads
to more effective and informed solutions to lighting problems.
From an amateur astronomers point-of-view, all
the necessary light pollution-friendly luminaire fixtures are
available to contractors and the general public alike, which will
allow us to effectively stop and significantly reduce the effects
of light pollution.
Let us not forget that it's certainly not too
late to take action and restore our skyward environment and the
thousands of stars that go with it to its former glory ... And
that it would only take us 299,793,000 milliseconds to do so.
Open your eyes to the nascent glow,
Watch as it starts on the horizon low.
As twilight deepens, the lights they come,
Another ton of coal's job is done.
Deep in country the celestial show delights,
'Tis only a dream of longing suburbanites.
Youngsters wonder of Milky Way lost,
The old man knows how much the cost.
Cruel fixtures that light the night,
Stealing the stars from our sight.
Comets die, northern lights disappear,
We have lost what we once held so dear.
Thoughts from an anonymous starlight-starved
30 April 2003