Date: April 5, 2011
Title: Happy Nights: Dark Skies and Global Astronomy Month
Podcasters: Connie Walker (Chloe Talbot), Rob Sparks (Narrator/Phineas/Bystander), Carmen Austin (as Betsy), Chris Dunlop (as Bill), and Britny Delp (Ally). Also starring Chuck Dugan as the Dark Skies Crusader.
Organization: Happy Nights: Dark Skies and Global Astronomy Month
Description: One of the main “take-away” messages from Global Astronomy Month is why we should preserve our dark night skies. Even if you live in cities with too many bright lights, you can make a difference. With half of the world’s population now living in cities, many people have never experienced the wonderment of a pristinely dark sky and maybe never will. “Light pollution” is obscuring people’s long-standing natural heritage to view stars. Poorly-aimed and unshielded outdoor lights are the cause of most of the light pollution. They waste more than $2 billion (17 billion kilowatt-hours) of energy in the United States each year, for example. Under an unpolluted sky we ought to see more than a couple thousand stars, yet we see less than a hundred from many cities.
Several dark skies events and activities are being held worldwide on behalf of Global Astroou can do in a day for adults and for kids, things you can do over a week’s time, a campaign measuring light pollution, a photo contest and poetry on the importance of maintaining dark skies, a conference on light pollution and a year-round program to conserve places to observe a dark night sky.
Join us as for a Dark Skies Crusader skit on saving energy by lighting responsibly and then for another skit with our hero on dark skies events and activities during Global Astronomy Month.nomy Month to promote public awareness on how to save energy and save our night sky. The events range from things you can do in a few minutes, like the audio podcasts, things y
Bio: Podcast co-author, Connie Walker (Chloe Talbot) is an associate scientist and senior science education specialist in the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) group at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona. She directs the worldwide citizen science campaign on monitoring sky brightness called GLOBE at Night (www.globeatnight.org). She also chaired the global cornerstone project on Dark Skies Awareness for the International Year of Astronomy (www.darkskiesawareness.org). Podcast co-author, Rob Sparks (Narrator/Phineas/Bystander) is a science education specialist in the EPO group at NOAO and works on the Galileoscope project (www.galileoscope.org), providing design, dissemination and professional development. He also pens a great blog at halfastro.wordpress.com. New to portraying podcast characters, Carmen Austin (as Betsy), Chris Dunlop (as Bill), and Britny Delp (Ally) are University of Arizona undergraduates who work to support programs, events and other efforts as part of the NOAO EPO group. The returning star by popular demand is Chuck Dugan (as Dark Skies Crusader), a public program specialist for the NOAO Kitt Peak Visitor Center. Monica Mayne of NOAO joins us as Doris Martin.
Narrator (in the style of a Saturday movie serial) : It’s a warm summer evening in Milwuakee. The crew at Ally’s Drive In are closing up shop after a long day of work.
Bill: Wow! We sure were busy today!
Betsy: Even on skates, I could barely keep up with all the orders!
Bill: Will there be anything else, Mrs. Molinaro?
Ally Molinaro: Thanks for your help, Bill and Betsy, but I need to talk to you.
Bill: Is something wrong?
Ally: Yes. I am afraid Al’s Drive In has been struggling recently. My income just hasn’t been keeping up with the expenses to run this place.
Betsy: What are you saying? Are you letting us go?
Ally: Well, you are both swell kids. I don’t want to lose either of you, but I will have to cut back on your hours.
Bill: But I was saving up for a car so I could take Joanie to the prom!
Betsy: Yeah, and all my savings were going into my college fund. I want to get a good education.
Ally: I know, times are tough, but have you seen my electric bills?
Sound effect: footsteps
Dark Skies Crusader (DSC): Greetings, friends! I think I can help you.
Ally, Bill, Betsy: Dark Skies Crusader!
Bill: But how can you help?
DSC: I heard that one of your problems was large electric bills. As I cruised by, I couldn’t help but noticing your outdoor lighting is excessively bright and poorly designed.
Ally: What do you mean?
DSC: Let’s go outside and I will show you.
Sound effect: footsteps/roller skates
Betsy: Wow! That’s so bright I need to Wear my Sunglasses at Night!
DSC: Yes it is, Betsy. Think of all the energy that is being wasted by those lights. Look at how fast your electric meter is spinning.
Sound effect: High pitched buzz
Ally: But I can’t just turn off my lights. People need to be able to see my drive in and I don’t want Betsy falling as she delivers orders on her roller skates.
DSC: Of course you need lights. The problem is that these lights are unshielded and much of their light goes into the sky. They also produce a lot of glare making it hard for people to see.
Bill: I see! Well designed lighting fixtures use less energy.
Betsy: Which can save you money.
DSC: Yes, I am a certified lighting engineer. Let me help you out.
Sound effect: Construction sounds
Ally: Wow! That looks keen!
Bill: Yes, the new lighting is great! I can’t wait to bring Joanie here after the prom. Girls love that soft light.
Betsy: And I can see the sidewalk a lot better. I can skate a lot easier now.
Sound effect: Roller skating
Ally: And look at the electric meter. It is spinning a lot slower now.
Sound effect: low pitched buzzing.
DSC: Since there is no longer wasted light, I was able to replace every light with a lower wattage bulb.
Betsy: Those savings will really add up over time.
DSC: Yes, they will. And be sure you have Energy Star appliances in your kitchen. That could save you even more.
Ally: And look at those stars! You can see the sky a lot better with these new lights. I might have to change the name to the Starlite Drive In!
DSC: That is a great idea, and it is fixed just in time for International Dark Skies Week. Al, do you have anything to say to Bill and Betsy?
Ally: Oh, yes. With all the money I am saving, I won’t have to cut your hours.
Bill and Betsy: Hooray!
Bill: Thank you, Dark Skies Crusader. Joanie is going to love my new set of wheels.
Betsy: And I am sure to go to a good college now.
Bill: Golly, Dark Skies Crusader. I want to be like you!
DSC: And you can, Billy. Just be conscious of how you light at night. I hearby dub you and Betsy Dark Sky Rangers! You can celebrate Dark Sky Ranger Day on April 30th. And now I must be off. But first, some music.
Sound effect: wrist hitting a jukebox
DSC: Hmmm…the juke box always started when Fonzie did that!
DSC: When brightest lights light up darkest night, no glaring light will escape my sight! Let those who worship brightness beware my power: the shielded light!
PHINEAS: Welcome, Everyone, to the press conference on Global Astronomy Month. I am Phineas Turlington here to answer your questions. First, question, here in the front row.
CHLOE: Chloe Talbot, Daily Star. What is Global Astronomy Month?
PHINEAS: April is Global Astronomy Month. Its goal is to bring astronomy enthusiasts together from around the world to celebrate the beauty of observing the night sky.
Doris: Doris Martin, The Sun. How does someone get involved?
PHINEAS: There are many ways to get involved including global programs, local events, remote observing from the comfort of your own home, classroom activities, a family night out under the stars perhaps during the Lyrid meteor shower, the Global Star Party, social networking and more.
CHLOE: Where can we find out more detailed information?
PHINEAS: Go on-line to www.astronomerswithoutborders.org. Select “Projects” and then select “Global Astronomy Month”.
DORIS: Yeah, but how can we get involved if we cannot see many stars from where we live?
SOUND EFFECTS: bicycle
EVERYONE: Dark Skies Crusader!!!
DSC: I’ll take it from here, Phineas. Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen! I’m so glad you asked. One of the messages from Global Astronomy Month, or GAM as we like to call it, is why we should preserve our dark night skies. Even if you live in cities with too many bright lights, you can make a difference.
DORIS: Why should we care?
DSC: With half of the world’s population now living in cities, many people have never experienced the wonderment of a pristinely dark sky and maybe never will. “Light pollution” is obscuring people’s long-standing natural heritage to view stars.
DORIS: So what’s the main cause of light pollution?
DSC: Poorly-aimed and unshielded outdoor lights are the cause of most of the light pollution. In the U.S., they waste more than $2 billion each year, and that is more than 17 billion kilowatt hours of energy. Under an unpolluted sky we ought to see more than a couple thousand stars, yet we see less than a hundred from many cities.
DORIS: 2 billion dollars? That’s scandalous! How will participating in GAM help?
DSC: Several “dark skies events and activities” are being held worldwide on behalf of GAM to promote public awareness on how to save energy and save our night sky. The events range from things you can do in a few minutes, like the audio podcasts, things you can do in a day for adults and for kids, things you can do over a week’s time, a campaign measuring light pollution, a photo contest and poetry on the importance of maintaining dark skies, a conference on light pollution and a year-round program to conserve places to observe a dark night sky.
CHLOE: So what are some of the events that take place during GAM?
DSC: The first week of April celebrates International Dark Sky Week. It’s a great time to host a neighborhood star party and introduce the idea of preserving a dark night sky to your community. A poster child example is the community of Harmony, Florida with their Dark Sky Festival on April 9. The main goal of IDSW is to raise awareness of the value of maintaining dark skies. Another goal is to encourage efficient use of outdoor lighting. That is, lighting that lights where you need it, when you need it, and for amount of time it’s needed. So if you participate, and you encourage your friends, relatives, and neighbors to participate, that could make a difference in the quality of the night sky and inspire those around us to preserve its beauty. For more information, visit www.darksky.org/IDSW.
DORIS: What if you want to experience how much night sky we have lost to light pollution?
DSC: The GLOBE at Night program is a 2-week international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by encouraging everyone everywhere to measure local levels of night sky brightness and contribute observations online to a world map. Action can speak louder than words sometimes. The act of measuring night sky brightness often shows people how serious light pollution has become. The campaign ended in the northern hemisphere on April 4, but continues until April 6 in the southern hemisphere. For more information, visit www.globeatnight.org.
CHLOE: What if you want to find and preserve dark sky places to observe from?
DSC: Available year-round, the One Star at a Time program is a worldwide effort to create accessible public spaces to view a starry night sky. The program uses night sky conservation to unite people across the planet. One Star engages the average citizen, individually or in groups, to cherish and protect the night sky through personal pledges, registration of public stargazing areas, and information sharing. For more information on this one, visit onestar-awb.org.
DORIS: I am a photojournalist. What role can I play in Global Astronomy Month?
DSC: From now until Earth Day, April 22, an on-line “Earth and Sky” photo contest is open for submission by photography enthusiasts from around the world. The contest theme, “Dark Skies Importance,” has two categories: “Beauty of the Night Sky” and “Against the Lights.” Photos submitted to the contest should aim to address either category: either to impress people on how important and amazing the starry sky is or to impress people on how bad the problem of light pollution has become. Both categories illustrate how light pollution affects our lives. Rules and last year’s winners can be found at www.twanight.org/ and visit the links at the end of the show notes. Winners this year will be announced on April 30. Also, poetry on the beauty and importance of dark skies can be submitted all month to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHLOE: I am a busy person with work and family. What if you have only a few minutes to learn about the impact of dark skies on our lives?
DSC: Ten minute audio podcasts, …starring little-ol-me, the Dark Skies Crusader,… are available on dark skies awareness at 365DaysofAstronomy.org. They’re a fun way of learning about serious light pollution issues that affect energy use, our health and wildlife. See the archival podcasts on March 7, 2011, February 7, 2011 and March 21, 2010, respectively.
DORIS: Are there any meetings this month dedicated to learning about light pollution abatement?
DSC: The International Dark-Sky Association and the Northeast Astronomy Forum are holding a joint annual meeting on April 16 and 17 in New York, USA. Come to the largest astronomy trade show in North America and gain insight into how people have successfully reduced light pollution. The event features celebrity guests, like me, and renowned lecturers. Hear how public education is creating excitement for dark sky conservation. Get the very latest information on ways to light cities more efficiently and the consequences if we do not. For more information, see www.darksky.org and click on “IDA Annual Conference” on the upper left.
CHLOE: I have heard that there is a day set aside as well for the right to starlight.
DSC: World Night in Defence of the Starlight happens on April 20 every year to remind us of the need to preserve our right to view a dark night sky full of stars and to take steps to prevent its disappearance. The World Night in Defence of the Starlight is promoted annually as part of our cultural, scientific and environmental heritage. Activities can include switching-off lights at night to recover the stars and save energy. Organize artistic competitions, exhibitions, media campaigns, or conferences on the beauty of the night sky. Create artistic materials like videos, music, books, stories, photographs or paintings on the beauty of the night sky. Identifying and possibly protect dark skies oases. Visit an astronomical observatory. Or organize a star party. For more information, see www.starlight2007.net/ and follow the link to the World Night.
DORIS: What can kids do to become involved in preserving dark skies?
DSC: During April, kids pick which activities to do to become Dark Skies Rangers. They can:
• Do energy saving kinds of things, specifically by helping make the sky darker at night. Turning off outdoor lights at a curfew like 10pm is the easiest.
• But you can also figure out how much energy is saved if they replace an outdoor light with a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL). The “Home Outdoor Lighting Audit” worksheet is on the GAM Dark Skies Awareness web page.
• You can ask older family members to change out an outdoor light for a more efficient bulb and perhaps shield the bulb so that the light is directed downward and the bulb is not seen.
• Build a “Magnitude Reader”. Use it when observing the night sky, and find out how light polluted their sky is. The activity is on the GAM Dark Skies Awareness web page.
• Form an astronomy club at school and help their teachers host a star party.
• You can write to their city council on behalf of saving dark skies and saving energy.
• Or create art, photos, music, poetry or stories on the importance of maintaining dark skies.
For their efforts during the month, Dark Skies Rangers can download a certificate and an “Our Globe at Night” poster from the GAM Dark Skies Awareness website on April 30, Dark Skies Rangers Day.
CHLOE: Wow, this is a real feel good story for a change!
DORIS: This is going on the front page!
The crowd gives an enthusiastic applause.
DSC: Fantastic! I have done my job here. …For more information, visit www.astronomerswithoutborders.org and follow the links to programs and dark skies awareness.
BYSTANDER: Heh, Dark Skies Crusader! Looks like you have a new set of wheels!
DSC: “Yes, my Friend! With the switch to good lighting, I had enough money saved from my electric bill to buy myself a new Bianchi Infinito Ultegra bicycle. Now if I can only manage to install my bicycle bell….
NARRATOR: Thanks for listening to this episode of the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast.
Websites of Interest
Global Astronomy Month Dark Skies Awareness Program: http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/programs/dark-skies-awareness.html
International Dark Sky Week: www.darksky.org/IDSW
GLOBE at Night: www.globeatnight.org
One Star at a Time: onestar-awb.org
Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance: www.twanight.org/newTWAN/news.asp?newsID=6029
Dark Skies Poetry Submissions: email@example.com
Audio Podcasts on dark skies awareness: 365DaysofAstronomy.org on March 7, 2011, February 7, 2011 and March 21, 2010.
The International Dark-Sky Association Annual Conference: www.darksky.org; click on “IDA Annual Conference” on the upper left.
The World Night in Defence of the Starlight: www.starlight2007.net/TheWorldNight.html
Dark Skies Rangers Activities: www.darkskiesawareness.org/DarkSkiesRangers/
IDA Nighttime Rocks! Activity Book: docs.darksky.org/education/Activity%20Book.pdf
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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