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Darkness and the night sky

Part 1 of 3

 

Last updated 10/17/2022 at 1pm

"Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh

Mark DiVecchio

Special to the Village News

Introduction: The Fallbrook Beautification Alliance is inspired by the International Dark-Sky Association, the leading organization combating light pollution worldwide, to pursue certification for Fallbrook as an International Dark Sky Community.

IDA is the recognized authority for night sky protection and has taken the lead in identifying and publicizing the negative impacts of artificial light at night on human health, wildlife and the environment as a whole.

The mission of FBA's Dark Sky Initiative is:

1. Promote the enjoyment and preservation of Fallbrook's dark skies.

2. Develop and organize more year-round public astronomy activities.

3. Share with the community the exciting scientific breakthroughs that are taking place in our understanding of the universe.

The FBA received a letter of support from the Fallbrook Community Planning Group back in August and they are currently working with the county to formally add Fallbrook to San Diego County Zone C - lighting ordinance.

DiVecchio is on FBA's Dark-Sky Initiative committee and wrote this series of articles for Rainbow's community newsletter.

One of my passions is astronomy. I moved to Rainbow because the skies here were fairly dark while being still close to civilization. I like to setup my telescope and just look at the sky. The moon, planets, stars and galaxies are there for our amazement.

This 3-part series talks about darkness, why it is important and what we can do to keep the sky dark.

Acknowledgment: This series was produced with help from the International Dark Sky Association, http://www.darksky.org.

Chapter 1 – Darkness

Did you know that the stars are part of our common heritage? For millions of years, homo sapiens and their ancestors lived with the rhythms of the natural

light-dark cycle of day and night. Due to artificial light, most of us no longer experience truly dark nights. The nighttime environment is a precious natural resource. Uncontrolled outdoor lighting hides the stars and changes our perception of the night. Until recently, our ancestors experienced a night sky brimming with stars that inspired science, religion, philosophy, art and literature.

Inspired by the night

Van Gogh painted "Starry Night" in Saint Rémy, France, where the Milky Way can no longer be seen. If alive today, would he be inspired to paint this masterpiece? The night sky provides perspective and inspiration, allowing us to reflect on our humanity and place in the universe.

Discovering the cosmos

The histories of scientific discovery and human curiosity are indebted to the natural night sky. Because of light pollution, all new major astronomical observatories are being built far from civilization. Without the natural night sky, we could not have:

• Navigated the globe

• Walked on the moon

• Learned of our expanding universe

• Discovered humans are made of stardust

Only 2 out of 10 people on Earth can see the Milky Way; 99% of the USA and Europe live under light polluted skies and light pollution is increasing at 2% per year.

"Milky Way" by Babak Tafreshi

"All humans have a connection to the sky. People will talk about their first experience of a night sky with a sense of awe and passion. It's a reminder of the connection we have to the stars, of how important they've been for us, as far back as you want to go. We are losing our connection to the sky. We're so busy looking down at our screens, and even if we were to look up, we couldn't see anything," said Duane Hamacher, associate professor in cultural astronomy physics at the University of Melbourne.

Let's protect the natural night sky for future generations.

Next time, Chapter 2: Why darkness is important (and not just to astronomers)

Anyone interested in supporting FBA's Dark-Sky initiative can sign their on-line petition at https://chng.it/Gr6ZhXbb.

 

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