Podcasters: Carmen Austin, Becca Levy, Ryleigh Fitzpatrick, Zachary Watson, Rob Sparks
Description: We once again follow our heroes, Donna the Dark Night, and her loyal sidekick Candesce, as they fight to decrease the light pollution in their city. Now, the Dark Night Crusaders aren’t helping promote dark skies in just Glowtham, they’re taking the dark skies and Globe at Night campaign international! They first stopped at Paris, France to attend the International Year of Light 2015 opening ceremony. Now, our fearless duo is travelling to Chile, the astronomy capital of the world.
Sponsors: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is brought to you by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory on behalf of Globe at Night. NOAO is the national center for ground-based nighttime astronomy in the United States and is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. Globe at Night has been using crowd-sourced observations to track the spread of light pollution since 2006. This year, the project is expanding so that you can collect data every month of the year. If you can find Orion or another one of the bright constellations being used in the program, you can add your data to this ever growing citizen-science effort. For more information, go to www.globeatnight.org.
Bio: : Carmen Austin, playing the part of Donna/The Dark Night is an undergraduate student in General Studies at the University of Arizona. She also works as a public observing program guide at Kitt Peak National Observatory, as well as an instructional specialist at the UA Steward Observatory.
Becca Levy, the voice of Candesce, is a senior at the University of Arizona, double majoring in Astronomy and Physics with a minor in French. She works as lead special projects assistant in the Education and Public Outreach Department at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). She will be attending University of Maryland, College Park in the fall as a graduate student in astronomy.
Hayley Keith, the author of this podcast and the voice of Hayley P. Small (H.P.S), is a junior at the University of Arizona and a Science Education: Earth Science Emphasis major. She also works as a special projects assistant in the Education and Public Outreach Department at NOAO.
Ryleigh Fitzpatrick, the voice of Lindsay P. Small (L.P.S), is currently a sophomore at the University of Arizona. She is triple majoring in Astronomy, Physics, and Math and is also a special projects assistant in the Education and Public Outreach Department at NOAO.
Zachary Watson, the voice of Mayor Mac, is a junior at the University of Arizona and is double majoring in Physics and Astronomy. He is also a special projects assistant in the Education and Public Outreach Department at NOAO.
Rob Sparks, the voice of our narrator, 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.
Donna (The Dark Night): Carmen Austin
Candesce: Becca Levy
Narrator: Robert Sparks
Hayley P. Small (H.P.S): Hayley Keith
Lindsay P. Small (L.P.S): Ryleigh Fitzpatrick
Mayor Mac: Zachary Watson
Narrator: Last time on the Dark Night Crusaders, Donna the Dark Night and her faithful sidekick Candesce took their light pollution campaign international and travelled to the International Year of Light opening ceremony in Paris, France to educate the public on the effects that light pollution has on health. The opening ceremony was a success and the public loved being able to see their hero Donna the Dark Night. Now that the IYL opening ceremony is over, Donna and Candesce are continuing their travels across the world. Their next stop? Chile, South America! What will be in store for our heroes at the astronomy capital of the world?
Donna: I’m so happy that we’re finally going to Chile! There’s the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the La Silla Observatory, and the Las Campanas Observatory, all in Chile! They have some of the world’s coolest telescopes such as the Magellan Telescopes, the ALMA telescope, the Blanco Telescope with the Dark Energy Camera, and coming soon the LSST and GMT. I’ve wanted to go there for a while.
Candesce: What does ALMA for?
Donna: ALMA stands for Atacama Large Millimeter Array. It’s one of the world’s leading radio telescopes. It turns out, there are a lot of different kinds of light in the universe. Visible light, the only light that humans can see, is only a really small portion of all the light in the universe. Astronomers don’t just study the light we can see, they also study the light that we can’t see, such as radio waves. The ALMA telescope was made to study radio waves, which can help tell us about star birth during the early years of the universe and help us get detailed images of local star and planet formation.
Candesce: So radio telescopes don’t have to worry about light pollution?
Donna: Radio telescopes, like ALMA, may not have to worry about pollution from visible light, but they still have to worry about radio light pollution, or Radio Frequency Interference, RFI. Just as too much visible light pollution isn’t good for observing with optical telescopes, too much radio frequency interference isn’t good for radio telescopes.
Candesce: Huh, who knew that there could be pollution from different kinds of light!
Donna: Well, we better get going. Chile is waiting!
Narrator: The heroes finish up packing and catch a flight the next day from Paris to Santiago, the capital of Chile. They arrive at Santiago and begin seeing everything it has to offer.
Candesce: Spreading the word about Globe at Night and light pollution shouldn’t be too difficult here. They already seem to know a lot. This will make our job a lot easi….
Narrator: Before Candesce could finish her sentence, there is a murmuring in the crowd in front of Donna and Candesce, and people being pushed back and forth as the crowd begins to part.
HPS: Excuse me!
LPS: Coming through!
Narrator: All of a sudden, Donna and Candesce are nearly run over by two, very out of breath, young twins.
Donna: Woah, slow down there! What’s the big rush?
LPS: Are you the…
HPS: ….Dark Night Crusaders?
Candesce: Yep, the one and only!
HPS: Oh my gosh, we….
LPS: found them!
Narrator: Donna and Candesce looked confusedly back and forth between the two girls, trying to figure out who was saying what.
Candesce: You guys really like doing the whole “finish each other’s sentences” twin thing don’t you?
LPS: Oh, I don’t think we do that. We’re not that…
Donna: How can we help you ladies?
LPS: I’m Lindsay P. Small
HPS: And I’m Hayley P. Small
LPS and HPS: And it’s an honor to make your acquaintance.
LPS: First off, let me just say how awesome it is to meet you guys. I’m your biggest fan!
HPS: Secondly, we need your help! (Murmurs: and actually I’m your biggest fan).
Donna: What can we do for you?
LPS: The second we heard you were in Santiago, Chile, we just knew we had to come find you.
HPS: We go to the University of Santiago here, but we’re originally from Talca, Chile. Talca is a really neat city that has done a lot to minimize light pollution and have responsible lighting. Talca has also contributed a lot of data points to Globe at Night over the years. So, my sister and I have grown up using and implementing quality lighting and taking Globe at Night measurements.
LPS: But last week, something horrible happened!
Candesce: (under her breath) I’m glad to see they’ve stopped finishing each other’s sentences.
HPS: Along the highway that runs near our university, they’ve just installed these huge…
LPS: …billboards. Lit up with…
HPS: …bright blue LED lights!
Donna: Hmm, I can see how this can be a problem. Well Candesce, looks like our site seeing is over!
Narrator: The Crusaders pack up once more and go with Lindsay and Hayley to check out the situation. Sure enough, the highway is lined with billboards all lit up with blue LED lights.
LPS: How do you think we can fix this?
Candesce: Well, in our city of Glowtham, not everyone knew at first about light pollution, its negative impacts, and how best to minimize it, including our mayor. We had to work a lot with her and educate her on our cause before she understood its importance and became our very helpful ally. It seems like we’ll need to do the same thing here.
Donna: Let’s go have a chat with Santiago’s mayor and see if we can show him a better way to light up those billboards.
Narrator: The Crusaders and twins head over to the town’s city hall, in hopes of finding the mayor and solving the problem.
Donna: Hello Mr. Mayor, I was wondering if we could take a moment of your time?
Mayor Mac: Of course! And please, call me Mac.
Donna: My friend Candesce and I work together in our city of Glowtham, USA to help reduce light pollution. I’m the Dark Night, and we are the Dark Night Crusaders.
Mayor: Yes, yes, of course! I’ve heard of you! Very nice to meet you. How can I help you?
Candesce: Well, it looks like some billboards were recently put up along the highway that runs in your city.
Mayor: Oh yeah, they look very nice don’t they?
Candesce: The only problem with them is that they are lit up with very bright blue LEDs.
Mayor: Well, what’s wrong with that? We were trying to be more energy efficient.
Donna: Even though yes, LEDs are more energy efficient than most lights, they still can contribute a lot to light pollution and sky glow. But more importantly, LEDs can hinder research done at nearby observatories.
Mayor: I don’t understand how some LEDs can affect astronomers?
HPS: Ooo, ooo, I think I know! Can I answer this one??
Candesce: Of course!
LPS: Well, astronomers use their telescopes and instruments to find and study spectra of objects in space. A spectrum is just when light is separated into its separate colors. Objects in space have unique spectra, and astronomers study these to find out a lot of information about those objects.
HPS: But, those LED lights on the billboards out there also produce their own spectra, but the spectrum of an LED light is continuous, which means it contains all the colors of the rainbow. When astronomers are trying to find the spectra of objects in space, lights, like the billboard LEDs, interfere with their data. Instead of just seeing the spectrum from the space object, the spectrum from the LED light is also picked up. And because it contains all the colors of the rainbow, astronomers aren’t able to separate it from the spectrum of the objects that they want to study.
Mayor: Wow! I didn’t know any of this! How can we fix this?
Candesce: It turns out, not all lights produce a continuous spectrum. Low pressure sodium lights emit mostly the color for sodium: yellow. That’s why these lights, which are commonly used in streetlights, glow with a yellow hue. So, astronomers don’t’ mind when low pressure sodium lights are used around observatories because they can easily see and take out the one main yellow sodium line that these lights produce from their spectral data.
Mayor: Wow, that’s an easy solution. I’ll get on replacing those blue LEDs with low pressure sodium lights right away!
HPS and LPS: Thanks Mayor Mac!
Narrator: Mayor Mac goes to work on changing the lights while Donna, Candesce, Lindsay, and Hayley begin walking outside.
HPS: Wow, it worked!!
Donna: Yep! A lot of the time, people don’t really know about the negative effects of light pollution, so it’s not always their fault when they use irresponsible lighting. That’s why it’s the Dark Night Crusaders’ mission to educate the public on light pollution.
HPS: I really love educating.
LPS: And I really love astronomy and learning about light pollution.
HPS: You guys are so lucky. Being a Dark Night Crusader seems like…
LPS: …a dream job.
Candesce: You know what, becoming a Dark Night Crusader with Donna the Dark Night was one of the best choices I ever made. I’ve learned so much. But I think it’s time for the next generation of budding scientists and educators to combat light pollution.
Donna: Candesce, what are you saying?
Candesce: Donna, I’ve loved working with you, but I saw today that my help isn’t only needed in Glowtham, it’s needed in other parts of the world as well. That is why I think it’s best if I stay here in Chile and help educate the public here about light pollution. Hopefully I can help to make some positive changes like we did today. I just feel like everything’s waiting for me here.
Donna: Just as Peyton, the Dark Skies Crusader had to let me spread my wings and fly solo, I must let you as well. Even though I’m going to miss my faithful sidekick, you’ve learned so much over the years, and it’s time for you to go your own way and share all your great knowledge and experience. But, who’s going to help me in Glowtham?
Candesce: Actually, I think I might know two very special girls who would make amazing sidekicks….
HPS: Man, I wonder who those two lucky girls are.
LPS Hayley, I think she meant us.
HPS: What? Really??
Candesce: Yeah. Both of you showed great initiative by seeking us out to help solve your light pollution problem. You guys were true citizen scientists today. Lindsay, with your passion for science, and Hayley, with your passion for education, you guys will sure make a dynamic duo.
LPS: I mean, we could transfer from the University of Santiago to Fleetwood University in Glowtham.
HPS: That sounds perfect!
Donna: That’s a great idea Candesce. And, I think we already have your secret identities. Your initials, LPS and HPS, can stand for Low Pressure Sodium and High Pressure Sodium!
LPS: They fit together…
HPS: …so perfectly!
Candesce: Just like you guys!
HPS: Well, before we leave to be Glowtham’s newest Dark Night Crusaders, how about we celebrate today’s win with some food! We are in Chile after all.
Donna: I sure do love empanadas.
Narrator: Donna, Candesce, Lindsay, and Hayley spent the rest of their time in Chile visiting all the amazing astronomical sites and educating the public on light pollution. When it came time for Donna to leave, it was a tearful goodbye for the two friends, but they knew it was for the best. Candesce stayed to become the Dark Night of Chile; the hero Chile deserves and needs. Where will Donna and her new sidekicks travel next on their international tour to spread the word about light pollution, dark skies, and Globe at Night? Tune in next time to find out! Your next chances to help our heroes are our upcoming Globe at Night campaigns: April 9-18 and May 9-18. Visit our website, www.globeatnight.org for more information about all of these projects! Also, don’t forget, April is Global Astronomy Month, and April 13-18 is International Dark Skies week. Visit www.astronomerswithoutborders.org and www.darksky.org for more information.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by NUCLIO. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. 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. This year we celebrate cosmic light as light is our info messenger in the universe. Join us and share your story to celebrate the International Year of Light. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!