With Hostess Brands Inc. filing for bankruptcy, treat lovers everywhere are concerned about losing their Twinkies. But after meeting Audrey Fischer two weeks ago, I’m more concerned about us losing our Milky Way. Check that, The Milky Way.
That’s right – I’m talking about the big Milky Way in the sky, our home galaxy. If you are able to see it from your vantage point on Earth, take a good long look because in a few years it may be gone from sight.
Audrey Fischer is the Queen of Darkness. An astronomer, Chicago Astronomical Society board member, Chicago section co-leader of the International Dark Sky Association and co-founder of the One Star at a Time/Global StarPark Network – Audrey is an advocate for starry skies.
Think of all the time you’ve enjoyed stargazing, tilted your son’s or daughter’s head just the right way to see the Big Dipper.
“See? There’s the handle and there’s the cup.” Our starry skies have inspired countless artists, writers of words and songs, scientists. Many have put their careers on the line, even lost their lives, to explore the stars.
What would happen if we could no longer see them? No Perseid meteor showers, no Saturn, no Orion. Sure, these heavenly bodies will still be there, we hope, but we’d need to jump on a rocket to see them. Oops. No NASA either. Start saving your pennies because it will cost you a cool $200k to book a ticket on a private rocket and escape our light pollution.
We are lucky to have Audrey and other dark skies advocates on because things may be worse than they seem. Consider the following:
National Park Service research indicates, “Currently, two-thirds of Americans
cannot see the Milky Way from their backyard, and if current light pollution trends continue, there will be almost no dark skies left in the contiguous United States by 2025.” (View the article) The study indicates that by 2025 fewer than 10 percent of the population will ever experience a starry night sky unless mitigating measures are taken.
The American Medical Association has proclaimed that light pollution is hazardous to human health (” … The natural 24-hour cycle of light and dark helps maintain precise alignment of circadian biological rhythms…Pervasive use of nighttime lighting disrupts these endogenous processes and creates potentially harmful health effects …” (Read about it!)
Daylight at night affects every cell, inhibiting the production of melatonin, which allows creatures to know when it is day or night. That’s how trees know to bud out in the spring. (Read about this too.)
“Starlight is an indicator of a healthy environment in which to work, play and raise a family,” Audrey said. “We need focused, collaborative energy to re-think all outdoor lighting practices to restore starlight for today’s and future generations. ”
She said we can have artificial light and starlight too if we make careful and thoughtful choices. Lights should point down and not up or out, for one thing. More and more manufacturers are becoming aware of this critical pollution issue. In fact, there was an interesting article online (here’s a link.) about a historic Chicago building, The Rookery, being retrofitted with star-saving lights.
Please remind yourself of the beauty of the evening skies. Take a look at this link from Audrey and “Know what the pristine night sky looks like.”
Audrey said satellite photography indicates Chicago is the biggest polluter of the night skies. The Mayor’s Office is currently considering a proposal to replace lighted static billboards with jumbo computerized billboards, which will create even more light pollution. This from the city that prides itself on green rooftops.
We’ve polluted the Earth, sea and sky. We’re more concerned these days about losing our Twinkies than we are about losing our Milky Way.