A Multimedia Presentation  “LED lights are meant to save energy. They’re creating glaring problems”

A Multimedia Presentation “LED lights are meant to save energy. They’re creating glaring problems”

Photo: National Park Service composite of 47 images

About this multimedia story:

“The National Park Service captured the images showing the night sky and light pollution in Chelan County. To create a full picture of the night sky, NPS stitched together 47 different photographs, a process that can leave seams between individual image, some of which are visible in the images in the story… Evening sounds are from the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division at the National Park Service. Solutions for reducing light pollution are from the National Park Service. LED lights are meant to save energy. They’re creating glaring problems.”

Here’s just a tiny bit of an article that can only be experienced…rather than read.

“As societies developed, stars became less visible on the horizon. In one county in Washington state, the clarity of the night sky was marred by lights radiating upward and obscuring the view. This light pollution would only grow worse…

An unexpected increase in pollution came after Chelan County shifted to LED streetlights, which shine brightly while using less energy than traditional bulbs. One year after the change began, the additional glare masked about half of the previously visible stars. What happened there is not unique.

In recent years, cities, towns and small communities across the world have taken part in a radical revolution — of our lightbulbs. Traditional orange-tinged high-pressure sodium bulbs are being swapped for more energy-efficient, whiter and brighter LED (light-emitting diode) lights. But the rise of LEDs is also illuminating new problems for our night sky, as well as our health.

Over the past decade, scientists found, the night sky has become nearly 10 percent brighter each year because of artificial lights, mainly LEDs emitting too much glare. Streetlights are part of the problem, as are sources such as illuminated billboards and stadium lights…

‘People need to understand LED lights are being installed everywhere, not just streetlights, but they’re blasting up in all directions,’ said Jim White, senior energy efficiency engineer with the Chelan County Public Utility District who helped with the county’s LED transition…

Researchers with the National Park Service found the LED lights washed out more of the stars, particularly near the horizon.

‘You can tell the lighting gets bigger, so it extends higher into the sky … the entire sky got brighter,’ said Li-Wei Hung, an astronomer with the National Park Service who published a study on the LED transition in Chelan County. ‘Just a few years ago, this [was] really new knowledge for us. Does the change to LEDs really decrease the light pollution or increase it? We [didn’t] exactly know.’

Camera data showed the sky over local Burch Mountain was 60 percent brighter after the county completed the switch in 2019 compared with 2018.

The new artificial light stood at 3.69 times the natural light level after the transition; before the transition, artificial lights generated 2.30 times the natural light. White said the increased pollution was ‘a total surprise’ because the Public Utility District had tried to direct lights toward the ground, but the light still scattered.

Detailed nightglow data from individual cities is hard to come by, making the transition in Chelan County an important case study in understanding both the good and bad effects of LED lights. Yet observations and anecdotes indicate Chelan County is not alone. From 2011 to 2022, reports from citizen scientists indicated the average night sky got brighter by 9.6 percent each year, which researchers attribute to LED light replacements. Some cities, such as D.C., paused a transition to LEDs after residents complained about the bright lights disrupting their sleep…”

— Kasha Patel, Kati Perry, Daniel Wolfe and Emily Sabens, Washington Post

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“This Florida city gets the state’s first ‘dark sky’ certification”

“This Florida city gets the state’s first ‘dark sky’ certification”

Photo: Steven Miller Photography in Tampa Bay Times

“Groveland’s work over the last three years to replace light fixtures will allow the night sky to shine clearer and brighter than it has in decades.

About 30 miles west of Orlando sits Groveland, a rural town of about 23,000 people that is seeing shipping giants like Amazon and Kroger bring jobs inside its city limits.

While the community welcomed the job growth, the lights on the warehouse rooftops were turning Groveland’s night sky into a hazy orange that made seeing stars at night challenging.

When residents and students pushed for a local ordinance protecting views of the night sky from harsh city lights in 2017, local officials were on board.

Six years later, Groveland has been recognized as the first Florida city to meet the criteria set by the international organization DarkSky to reduce the artificial brightness that drowns out the night sky.

Andrew Landis, Groveland conservation and special planning manager, spearheaded efforts to reduce light pollution in his fast-growing home city…

Steven Miller of Orlando is the southeast U.S. regional delegate for DarkSky, which is dedicated to reducing light pollution across the world. In 2020, the city of Groveland asked Miller what it would take to become the 41st city to meet DarkSky’s accreditation requirements.

Groveland’s recognition came after three years of public outreach and policy work…

About 12 volunteers now work as ‘citizen scientists’ in Groveland. The city supplies them with $150 light pollution testing devices, which resemble garage door remotes. From there, they are tasked with driving around the 54-square-mile city and pointing the machines at the clear night sky. Groveland is mostly rural and it takes about 30 minutes to get from one end to the other, Landis said…

Groveland is currently retrofitting old streetlamps with dark-sky-friendly lights, which are shielded downward with a low color temperature. City staff hope to replace every light fixture by 2027. But the night sky city ordinance applies immediately to new buildings, and explaining this to developers is sometimes tricky, Landis said.

‘Most people are receptive to it, but if they’re not, they learned quickly that we’re pretty serious,’ he said…

Groveland still has a long way to go before it reaps the rewards of the new city ordinance, Miller said. Installing new lights around the city and helping local businesses follow suit will take time and even more community outreach.

Some communities already see Groveland as a shining example of responsible city lighting.

Miller said the city of Okeechobee has reached out to him about adopting a city plan like Groveland’s ordinance.

‘I really believe that, yes, it will take off,’ Miller said. ‘I do think it’s going to take a little bit of time…'”

— Jack Prator, Tampa Bay Times

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Year ahead: “Will space advertising take off in 2022?” Current dark skies issues even without advertising

Year ahead: “Will space advertising take off in 2022?” Current dark skies issues even without advertising

Photo: Scott Kelly/NASA via AP

“Plans to advertise from space have been around for decades, but the latest proposals have met fierce criticism.

In August, the Canadian company Geometric Energy Corporation (GEC) announced that it wanted to launch a small satellite with a billboard on it on a SpaceX rocket. The story immediately went viral, and SpaceX and GEC received a barrage of criticism.

In 2019, Russian entrepreneur Vlad Sitnikov got caught up in a similar controversy. ‘I’m an ad guy’, Sitnikov told Al Jazeera. ‘So I thought it would be cool to see a new type of media in the sky…’
‘A big wave of hate crushed me. I decided to halt the project, because people around the world started hating me.’ His start-up, StartRocket, has been in limbo ever since.

A key objection to space advertising proposals is that they will contribute to light pollution from space, a problem that is growing even without ads in orbit.

Advertising in outer space might seem like a vulgar idea, but it’s one with a long history. It’s also getting more popular because the cost of going to space is falling. But the side effects, such as light pollution and space debris, might not be worth it…

Not in my low earth orbit

With space becoming more accessible, and less costly to access, proposals for using space for advertising or entertainment purposes have been increasing. Besides the GEC and StartRocket projects, Japanese start-up ALE wants to use satellites that drop small balls to create artificial shooting stars on demand – a proposition that raised close to $50m in venture funding.

One key objection to these proposals [space advertising schemes] is that they will contribute to light pollution from space, a problem that is growing even without ads in orbit.

‘Until recently most of our work had been on ground-based light pollution’, said Jeffrey Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory, and chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on Light Pollution, Radio Interference, and Space Debris. ‘The issue of light pollution from space is new territory for us, and it only started in 2019 with the launch of the SpaceX Starlink satellites,’ he told Al Jazeera.

Large, so-called ‘constellations’ of small, low-flying satellites have boomed in recent years. For example, SpaceX Starlink wants to launch tens of thousands of satellites to offer internet connections all over the world.

For astronomers, however, to observe space they need relatively dark skies. Yet bright outdoor lights on land, or satellites that emit or reflect light, like the Starlink constellation, can ruin what they do. And Hall fears space billboards might make the problem worse.

‘Satellites leave very bright streaks in images’, he said. ‘The streaks can saturate pixels in the image, and completely ruin it…’

‘Things are moving so fast it makes sense to slow down until we understand the impacts of what we’re doing’, said Hall. Space law

It is possible that space law will prevent satellite billboards. Space is subject to the 1966 Outer Space Treaty, which sees space as a global commons.

‘There is nothing specific in the treaty about space advertising’, said professor emerita Joanne Gabrynowicz, director of the International Institute of Space Law. ‘But article 9 does require signatories to exercise ‘due regard’ of other signatories’ interests and to avoid ‘harmful interference’ to other nations’ space activities,’ she told Al Jazeera.

Satellite billboards that impede astronomers from observing space could be subject to this. On top of that, the US passed a national law during the 1990s that prohibits space advertising that might be deemed ‘obtrusive…’

Of course, SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation was reviewed and approved by US authorities, even though it impacts astronomy. International law also depends on how treaties are applied at the national level. The Russian state would, for example, need to decide whether it sees a Russian space advertising startup as being in line with the Outer Space Treaty. Yet there is a legal argument for blocking space advertising if it would cause too much light pollution…”

— By Tom Cassauwers, Alazeera

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“Students’ idea: Carving images onto the moon”

“Students’ idea: Carving images onto the moon”

Photo: UT Austin
“Want to leave a message on the moon’s surface?

A group of University of Texas students have a vision that could — at least in theory — make that a possibility someday.

The 10 UT engineering students devised a business plan to turn the idea into a moneymaker — and won awards for it at a NASA competition.

They pitched and provided the plan for building a rover that would carve messages or images onto the moon and capture pictures of those etchings, which in turn could be used for merchandising. While not visible from Earth, the etchings are intended to be permanent, the students said.

The idea for the project came when Brianna Caughron, the student team leader, was walking back to her apartment from class and noticed carvings on a sidewalk, she said.

‘I was like, oh my gosh, that could easily be done on the lunar surface. There’s the famous Apollo footprint from the Apollo 11 mission,’ she said…The business would charge about $10 per second for the time spent carving each image, an amount they settled on after polling other students informally and to make up for the upfront cost of launching the rover into space.

Overall, the entire process, including development of the rover, would cost $275 million to $300 million, according to Ali Babool, who was on the business and analytics side of the team.

The students expect to make up those costs and turn a profit by the end of the first year of lunar operations, said Caughron said.

If development started next year, the team has forecast that it could bring in about $610 million in annual revenue by 2026, with $450 million in profit. It used the tattoo market here on Earth as a model to come up with the financial projection…

Project LEGACI won in its category of commercial space development at NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage design competition, and it also received the Excellence in Commercial Innovation award…”

— Titus Wu, Austin American-Statesman
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“Pepsi Drops Plans to Use Orbital Billboard”

“Pepsi Drops Plans to Use Orbital Billboard”

Illustration: StartRocket on Space.com

“A major soft drink company says it will not pursue plans to advertise its products in space using a Russian startup, avoiding what likely would have been significant public criticism.

The publication Futurism reported April 13 that PepsiCo’s Russian subsidiary was working with a startup there called StartRocket to advertise an energy drink called ‘Adrenaline Rush’ using satellites. The company has proposed flying a set of small satellites in formation, reflecting sunlight with Mylar sails to create logos or other advertising messages visible from the ground after sunset and before sunrise.

In one illustration on StartRocket’s website, a logo of a fictional soft drink company, “LocaCola,” is visible in the night sky over a city. ‘Space has to be beautiful. With the best brands our sky will amaze us every night,’ the website states.

Olga Mangova, a spokesperson for PepsiCo Russia, told Futurism that the company had agreed to partner with StartRocket on an orbital advertising campaign. ‘Orbital billboards are the revolution on the market of communications,’ she said. However, PepsiCo’s headquarters in the United States has shot down the idea. ‘We can confirm StartRocket performed an exploratory test for stratosphere advertisements using the Adrenaline GameChangers logo,’ a company spokesperson told SpaceNews April 15. ‘This was a one-time event; we have no further plans to test or commercially use this technology at this time…’

Federal law in the United States restricts the ability of companies to perform such advertising. A provision of law covering commercial space transportation prohibits the Secretary of Transportation from approving launch licenses for payloads that are for the purpose of ‘obtrusive space advertising,’ which is defined as ‘advertising in outer space that is capable of being recognized by a human being on the surface of the Earth without the aid of a telescope or other technological device.’ The law does not prohibit other forms of advertising, including placing logos on the sides of launch vehicles or spacecraft.

The law, though, only applies to payloads that would be launched commercially on an American vehicle, and would only apply to a venture like StartRocket if it chose to launch its satellites on such a rocket.

— Jeff Foust, Space.com

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