Date: January 1, 2012
Title: GLOBE at Night Kickoff: Seeing the Light
Podcasters: Connie Walker, Rob Sparks, Cameron Capra and Monica Mayne
Description: With half of the world’s population now living in cities, many urban dwellers have never experienced the wonderment of pristinely dark skies and maybe never will. This loss, caused by light pollution, is a concern on many fronts: safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars. Even though light pollution is a serious and growing global concern, it is one of the easiest environmental problems people can address on local levels. To provide opportunities for public involvement in dark skies preservation and energy conservation, we invite the public to participate in the GLOBE at Night campaign (www.globeatnight.org)
Bio: Podcast co-author, Connie Walker 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 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.
Cameron Capra is a first year Chemistry major at the University of Arizona. Cameron works in the NOAO Education and Public Outreach programs.
Monica Mayne is an Administrative Assistant at NOAO.
Sponsors: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is brought to you by NO ONE. Please consider sponsoring a day or two for this new year. We appreciate all of your support.
Narrator (in the style of a Saturday movie serial) : It’s a typical day on the International Space Station. The crew is relaxing as the Sun sets for the twelfth time that day.
Kristin: I never get tired of looking out the window. Earth is so beautiful from up here.
Calvin: Yep, and it’s just about dark again. There goes the Sun!
Kristin: And here comes the night side of Earth…look at all those lights! I can see exactly where all the cities are.
Calvin: You can even see the highways and railroad routes. Look at how they are lit up crossing the United States.
Calvin: What’s wrong, Kristin? I thought you liked looking at Earth from up here.
Kristin: Sure, it’s pretty, but it just seems awfully wasteful.
Calvin: What do you mean?
Kristin: Well, all those lights are pointing upward. What are they lighting? All that light just escapes into space and does no good for the people on the ground.
Calvin: I see what you mean. That must waste an awful lot energy.
Kristin: Not only that, it can affect human sleep patterns. When I was a kid, I heard about this man called the Dark Skies Crusader.
Calvin: I remember him. He went around helping people save energy, improve their health and protect wildlife through good lighting design.
CAPCOM: ISS, this is Houston.
Kristin: We read you, Houston.
CAPCOM: Everything on the station looks good. You are free to turn in for the night.
Calvin: Houston, we have a problem.
Kristin: We have been looking out the window and we see cities around the world lit up very brightly. That seems very wasteful.
Calvin: Yes, the lights don’t do any good when they point upward. Here, I am gong to take a picture and send it down to you.
Sound effect: Camera
Calvin: Picture is being transmitted now.
CAPCOM: Receiving your transmission…standby (pause). Wow! Look at all those lights!
Kristin: See what I mean? I don’t think most people even realize that there is a problem.
Calvin: Do you know anyone who can help?
CAPCOM: Yes, I do. I am gong to call the National Optical Astronomy Obsrevatory. I bet they can help. I will patch you through to them.
Sound effect: phone dialing/ringing
Connie: The National Optical Astronomy Observatory; Connie Walker speaking.
CAPCOM: Hi, I am Thad Thompson, CAPCOM for the ISS. I have astronauts Kristin Connor and Calvin King on the line who would like to talk to you.
Calvin: Hi Connie. We were just watching Earth from up here and couldn’t help but noticing all the lights from the cities at night.
Kristin: We want to help reduce the wasted energy. Thad thought you could help.
Connie: Light pollution is a major issue for astronomy as well. Most people cannot even see the Milky Way from where they live much less do astronomical research that requires extremely dark skies.
Calvin: What can be done about all this light pollution?
Connie: At the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, we run a program called GLOBE at Night that helps raise awareness about light pollution. We are just about to start making observations for 2012.
Kristin: Darn, I am not a professional astronomer. I wanted to help.
Connie: But you can, Kristin. This is a citizen science program that anyone can become involved with: teachers, students, amateur astronomers, anybody!
Calvin: Great, what do we have to do?
Connie: All the details are on the web at www.globeatnight.org.
Kristin: Hang on, I am going there now. Isn’t it great that we now have internet access on the ISS?
Sound effect: typing
Calvin: Oh, I see. There are several different charts showing the constellation of Orion. The first chart has hardly any stars at all, like you would see from the middle of a city.
Kristin: And the last chart has more stars than I can count, like I would see from a dark national park.
CAPCOM: So all you have to do is match what you see in a sky to a chart. You probably need to find your GPS coordinates as well.
Connie: Correct; and if you don’t have a GPS like on a smart cell phone, you can use our online mapping tool to help you find your GPS coordinates. Then you can enter your observations into our database. You guys really are rocket scientists! Unfortunately, you need to be on Earth to make observations!
Calvin: Hang on! The computer is floating away! Got it. When does the program run? We might be back in time.
Connie: In 2012, we have four different GLOBE at Night sessions: January 14-23, February 12-21, March 13-22 and April 11-20.
Kristin: I see, those dates are when the Moon is not in the night sky.
Calvin: And we are scheduled to return to earth in late February, so we can make observations in March and April.
Connie: For the January through March campaigns, we will use the constellation of Orion. For the April campaign, we are going to use the constellation of Leo in the northern hemisphere and Crux in the southern hemisphere, but the all the other information will remain the same.
Kristin: But what’s the next step? Making measurements is great, but how does that help in the long run?
Connie: Before people can be convinced to take action, we have to make them aware of the issue. The GLOBE at Night data is a great resource. When you have enough data for your city, you can show it to city planners.
Calvin: I see. And you can get them to pass outdoor lighting ordinances to cut down on unnecessary outdoor lighting.
Connie: Exactly. More and more cities and counties around the country are starting to take action spurred by concerned citizens like yourselves. The International Dark Sky Association has a model lighting ordinance on their website you can show to your elected officials. You can find it at http://www.darksky.org/MLO
Kristin: Thanks, Connie. That looks great.
Calvin: Yeah, that will help us keep the skies dark AND save energy.
Connie: Be sure to check out all the activities for students on the GLOBE at Night website.
Kristin: I can use some of them when I visit classrooms when I get back.
CAPCOM: Are we done here?
Calvin: Yes, thanks Connie. Dark skies!
Connie: Dark Skies to you too!
Kristin: Well, only for another forty-five minutes…then it’s sunrise up here!
Calvin: Houston, over and out.
CAPCOM: Over and out
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the Astrosphere New Media Association. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. Until tomorrow…goodbye.