Light pollution is becoming a problem throughout the US and Europe. Click the image at left to visit the World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness to see the map of US light pollution. The east coast and Great Lakes regions have large cities in heavy concentration, causing huge areas of light pollution.
The primary cause is poor light design. Light pollution is simply light straying into places where it does no good and may cause harm. There are a number of concerns with light pollution:
Light trespass—Stray light from a fixture pours into neighboring areas.
Environmental Impact—Excessive light affects plants and animals.
Human Factors—Excessive light affects sleep and other rhythms.
Safety—Light glare reduces visibility and can cause accidents.
Waste—Light that goes into the air is light and energy wasted.
Night Sky Extinction—Light pollution blanks out the night sky.
Initially, these problems don’t seem to matter, yet they add up to a growing problem all around. Light trespass causes problems for your neighbors. Some birds have lost their way in migration and some plants won’t grow well in bright lights. Humans sleep better in dark environments, so light trespass forces us to use heavier blinds. The glare in driver’s eyes can hide pedestrians rather than illuminate them. All of the light thrown into the air is wasted, as is the energy that powers the wasted light. Large metropolitan areas have enough light pollution that a light dome is visible from a distance. In the worst cases, light pollution is bad enough to obscure all but the brightest stars and planets.
The good news is that the conversion does not need to be expensive and can repay with lower operating expenses. Ordinances can change building codes to require shielded fixtures on new construction. Municipalities can fit inexpensive shields to streetlights and install lower wattage bulbs when replacing burned-out bulbs.
Light Pollution and Comanche Springs
How does light pollution affect Comanche Springs? Comanche Springs is placed at an ideal location — a day’s drive from many large metropolitan areas in Texas and Oklahoma, yet far away from large sources of light pollution.
The two maps below show light pollution levels. Both are based on the World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness. The first in black and blue is based on the raw image of the atlas. The second, in multiple colors, is based on the actual light levels within those photos. The first map shows the light in blobs. The bigger the blob, the worse the light pollution. If you look carefully, it’s easy to identify major cities and even highways. Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin metro areas represent the worst areas of light pollution in Texas. You can trace I20, I35, and I40 by following the string of lights. Then note the big area of black near the white X that shows Comanche Springs. That’s a good thing for astronomy!
In the map below, the light pollution levels go from gray (none) through green, yellow, red, and white (worst). The metro areas visible are highlighted in yellow and red, representing visible light domes and poor observing conditions. Ideal skies are gray on this map.
Wichita Falls, TX and Lawton, OK are on the right. Lubbock and Amarillo are just off to the left. Abilene and I20 are just off the map to the south. I40 is at the top of the map.
Right in the middle of all these metro areas is north Texas ranchland, with few people and even fewer outdoor lights. Comanche Springs is marked with the cross in the center of the map in the grey, representing nice, dark skies. Comanche Springs is well-placed in these ranchlands, giving us very dark skies with little or no light pollution, great weather, and easy access!