All That Glitters Is Not Gold

 

Light pollution on the highway.

Light pollution on the highway.

 

Light pollution, the colorful and pretty undertone you may see some nights when you gaze at the  night sky. It’s what has created the night skyline that many have fallen in love with and created the biggest problem for astronomers. Many may think that this display adorns the night sky with grace, but in reality it mask the true beauty, the stars. Everything that’s beautiful isn’t good or beneficial.

When my group mates and I initially started on our project Galaxy Zoo we thought it would be great, them more than me…. After about 20 minutes of solely classifying galaxies, I had become uninterested and unstimulated. So, I suggested that we try doing the GLOBE at Night or at least combine it with the one we already had; besides, I was more interested in light pollution in the first place. I felt like if we did the Galaxy Zoo project alone it would be a dry experience and we’d be left with nothing to discuss, but what can you honestly take away from just clicking at a screen?

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A shot I took.

The Galaxy Zoo’s mission is to classify galaxies across the universe that are seen by the SDSS, the Hubble Space Telescope, and UKIRT and answer a few questions in order to help the astronomers classify the galaxies themselves. While the GLOBE at Night project is all about light pollution, they ask you to take pictures of the night sky and look for the visibility of a certain star. They’re looking to eliminate light pollution completely, for two reasons really: they want us to be able to admire the night sky painted with the stars and planets, without the colorful fog that’s muting the beauty; the other reason is that light pollution is a HUGE problem for astronomers, it only makes sense though. To elaborate, on days that would be spectacular to look for new things light pollution populates the sky and blankets the stars.

Light pollution is so intriguing to me because the idea of light being harmful is just so odd. Anyways, light pollution occurs when there is an overabundance of light in one area. There are three main types of light pollution Sky Glow-this is the pretty fog or cloak that you’ll see over the night sky sometimes, this happens when the reflected light particles shoot up into the atmosphere and scatter about; Light Trespass- this is when light gets into unwelcome spaces(e.g, when someone opens your blinds/curtains to wake you up with sunlight); and Glare- this happens when you get flashed in the face with a really bright light. The other problem with light pollution is that it disrupts ecosystems, it interferes with nocturnal wildlife and messes with the circadian rhythm. Even though this is a problem, it can be helped by shielding light or cutting down light use. The final thing that I took from this, is that just because something looks nice does not mean it is nice.

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2 thoughts on “All That Glitters Is Not Gold

  1. I learned a lot from your post, Tyler! You explained what the Galaxy Zoo project is and why light pollution matters. I liked the final paragraph because you reflect on how science gives you a different perspective on something ordinary like the night sky. Maybe try bullet points next time you explain things that come in threes (ie, three types of light pollution)?

  2. Pingback: Your World Cloaked in Fog | Science on Campus

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