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Under the Martinborough Stars

June 8, 2020 June 2020 No Comments

We are in the middle of fighting an invisible enemy, one that has kept us stuck inside. However, this isolation has had a surprising side-effect. Reduced light pollution across the world

It is a well-known fact that most of the world’s population cannot see the night sky because of air and light pollution. Like you, I’m reading the news almost constantly, and I’ve been surprised by articles about how quickly previously heavily polluted countries are noticing such huge differences in their ability to now see the sky, distant mountain ranges and the Milky Way. 

We can even see this difference from Space. Satellites, orbiting high above the Earth are noticing significant drops in pollution across the world. 

We have begun to understand the role of lights recently, and their detrimental effects, not just for humans, but for all creatures. We have all seen moths and insects flying towards our headlights as we drive down roads at night, hurtling themselves at the vehicle as we drive along.

These insects have evolved to use the night sky as a compass, to adapt to the Moon cycle and to navigate. Our need to create light in the dark confuses these insects, they cannot tell the difference between a streetlight, the Moon and the Milky Way. 

Light also has problems for humans. We are born to link blue light with the daytime, the colour literally wakes up our brains. But having excess blue light in the evenings, watching TV and screens, and lighting up the outside with bright lights keeps us unnaturally awake at night. It messes up our circadian rhythms and affects our sleep and wellbeing. 

The darkness, the absence of blue light tells our brains to switch off, relax and go to sleep.

After Covid-19 has gone, I hope we can still keep our night sky dark and our days pollution free.

Luckily, there are some really easy ways to help reduce light pollution, which happily will also save money in the long run. The Wairarapa Dark Sky Society (WDSS) has plenty of advice and information about how to reduce your light pollution at home.

  • Turn off lights that you aren’t using. That’s an easy one.
  • Use lights at night that are warmer in colour than cooler, orange rather than blue. 
  • Point your lights down towards the ground, light up what you need rather than up into the sky.
  • Use a timer, so you only use the light when needed and it turns off at a particular time.

Now is a great time to reassess your home environment, go outside in your back yard at night and look up. Take a red torch so you can keep your eyes dark adjusted and wait to see the Milky Way appear. Beautiful isn’t it. 

Alongside the Wairarapa Dark Sky Society, everyone can help preserve our beautiful night sky and keep it that way for future generations. 

Go Outside and Look Up!

Becky Bateman 

Becky Bateman runs the Wairarapa Business Award-Winning nomadic astronomy tour guide service: Under The Stars

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