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Astronomers Fight For Unobstructed View Of The Sky

August 15, 2009

Light pollution compromises the ability of astronomers everywhere to see the stars clearly, which has prompted the International Astronomical Union to fight for the public’s “right to starlight.”

Founded in 1919, the union is a collection of professional astronomers, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, who are active in professional research and education in astronomy. Their mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation.

The group insisted that authorities should be finding less obtrusive ways of lighting cities and towns during an 11-day assembly in Rio de Janeiro.

The meeting was very successful, with 2109 registered attendees from across the globe, including galaxy gazers and 80 members of the press that came to discuss such issues.

In a resolution, the group added that such measures would do more than just provide a clearer sky for gazing, it would also boost environmental protection, energy savings and even tourism.

“The progressive degradation of the night sky should be regarded as a fundamental loss,” the union said.

The group held relentlessly to the belief that the ability to view the stars “should be considered a fundamental socio-cultural and environmental right.”

Augusto Daminelli, a Brazilian astronomer, made a statement to the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper that in Rio, “it should be possible to see up to 5,000 stars with the naked eye, but because of light pollution we can only see 150.”

He went on to explain that so much energy is being wasted by having nearly one-third of electric lighting directed at the sky.

There are many simple solutions to the problem. Daminelli suggested putting aluminum covers on street lighting to re-direct the light toward the street rather than the sky, and using weaker, more energy-efficient lamps.

“More than two billion people in the world are unable to see the Milky Way. For us, the sky is a heritage site for mankind,” he said.

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