October 23, 2002

Kelly Beatty, Sky & Telescope
855-638-5388 x148, [email protected]
Elizabeth Alvarez, International Dark-Sky Association
520-293-3198, [email protected]"


Note to Editors/Producers: This release is accompanied by publication-quality illustrations and an animation; see details below.

Energy and lighting specialists from throughout the U.S. and Canada are gathering in Boston, Massachusetts, this weekend for a meeting of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). They'll be taking aim at the ubiquitous pall of urban skyglow known as "light pollution," its effects on our health and our society, and what can be done to halt and reverse its spread.

Members of the news media are welcome to attend the sessions on Friday, October 25th. These invited talks and panel discussions will take place at the Museum of Science in Boston. Speakers are nationally recognized experts from the lighting industry, government agencies, power-utility companies, and others from the fields of medicine, environmental science, and astronomy. Key areas of discussion will include:

  • the glare and energy waste associated with poor-quality lighting
  • the effects of light at night on humans and wildlife
  • communityand commercial efforts to develop better lighting practices

A press conference will be held at 12:45 p.m in Cahners Theater at the Museum of Science.

The second day of the meeting, Saturday, October 26th, will convene at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge. Due to limited seating, we are not encouraging attendance by members of the news media. Instead, we will try to arrange interviews on Friday with the Saturday sessions’ invited speakers and other experts in attendance.

Satellite images dramatically reveal that roughly of a third of the light used outdoors escapes upward, totally wasted, into the night sky. The IDA estimates that each year in the United States, more than $1 billion is spent to generate that wasted light — resulting in the needless burning of some 6,000,000 tons of coal annually.

Founded in 1988, the IDA has about 10,000 members in all 50 states and 70 countries. Its 450 organizational members include lighting engineers and manufacturers, security personnel, government agencies, and municipalities. The IDA is a nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting.

Sky & Telescope is pleased to make the following images available to the news media. Permission is granted for one-time, nonexclusive use in print and broadcast media, as long as appropriate credit (as noted in each caption) is included. Web publication must include a link to http://SkyandTelescope.com/ and http://www.darksky.org/.

Eastern U.S. at Night

Billions of watts of wasted electricity stream continually into space as light from cities and towns in eastern North America. Although light pollution can never be completely eliminated, better commercial and municipal lighting practices could reduce it significantly. This 1994 satellite image is from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program. Click on the image above to download a 1-megabyte TIFF version by FTP.

Courtesy NOAA and the U.S. Air Force.

Glare from Antique Light

Many municipal officials are rushing to replace their streetlights with decorative, antique-looking fixtures (left). But 19th-century streetlights were never equipped with the high-intensity bulbs available today. As a result, some of these 'period' fixtures spray light in all directions (right), creating extreme levels of glare and light pollution. To download TIFF images by FTP, click the following links: light off (5.6 megabytes); light on (8.2 megabytes).

Courtesy J. Kelly Beatty.

Cinema Lighting Before and After

A cinema complex in Branford, Connecticut, before and after its lights were fitted with full-cutoff shields to comply with the town’s regulations. The change kept the ground well lit while dramatically reducing glare and light trespass onto neighboring property. To download TIFF images by FTP, click the following links: bad lights (4.5 megabytes); good lights (4.5 megabytes).

Courtesy Bob Crelin.

Earth at Night

Earth is no longer truly dark at night. Instead, looking down from space we would see the continents carpeted with incandescent population centers. This worldwide constellation of electric suns was captured in 1994–95 by satellites in the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). Researchers at the National Geophysical Data Center painstakingly assembled more than 400 images, each taken around the time of new Moon. Then the mosaic was combined with a modified infrared image of Earth’s surface. The result is a global snapshot of our planet’s light pollution. Click on the images above to download a 20-megabyte QuickTime animation showing the light-polluted Earth spinning at night.

Sky & Telescope animation by Steven Simpson.

Program for the Fall 2002 IDA Meeting

Friday, October 25, 2002, 9:00 a.m.;
Cahners Theater, Boston Museum of Science

Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Session 1: Historical/Sociological IssuesThis will be a general introduction to outdoor night lighting, including lighting terminology, history, and sociological factors (crime, fear-of-dark, safety, and aesthetics).

Session 2: Medical IssuesA discussion of the effects of outdoor light on people, particularly disability glare and issues involving the aging eye for senior citizens; also human photobiology and disruption of melatonin production.

Lunch (12:45–2:15 p.m.): Press Conference (Cahners Theater)

Session 3: Environmental and Ecological IssuesA discussion of issues involving the effects of outdoor light on flora and fauna — a good transition topic between medical effects and energy issues.

Session 4: Government, Industry, and YouA discussion of issues involving local, state, and national government as they interrelate to the lighting industry and to the general public, including energy consumption/costs and the IESNA's new ETAL-based standards.

Saturday, October 26, 9:00 a.m.;
Phillips Auditorium, Center for Astrophysics

Session 5: Residential and Small-Business Lighting Issues
A discussion concerning lighting of private housing, residential neighborhoods (including problems with sports fields), and small businesses. Relevant discussion will include lighting fixtures now available on the market, appropriate lumen levels and IESNA guidelines, and ordinances/bylaws.

Session 6: Legal IssuesWith many new lighting ordinances and laws going into effect, this session will discuss the legal issues surrounding outdoor night lighting, including the enforcement (and enforceability) of laws/ordinances and results of previous litigation.

Lunch (12:30–1:30 p.m.): Exhibits, Posters, and Networking

Session 7: Lighting-Industry IssuesA reality check provided by lighting designers, manufacturers, and power-utility representatives, in the context of what's "best" vs. what the marketplace wants.

Session 8: Research and Education/Outreach IssuesA review of ongoing and needed research, the prospect of establishing a centralized information database, and discussion about how education and outreach efforts might advance the cause of better outdoor night lighting.

Closing Remarks

(Additional details are available on the IDA's meeting page.)

About the IDA
Incorporated in 1988, the International Dark-Sky Association (www.darksky.org) currently has nearly 10,000 members worldwide, including affiliated chapters in most U.S. states and 11 other countries. The organization's goals are to be effective in stopping the adverse environmental impact on dark skies by building awareness of the problem of light pollution and of its solutions, and to educate everyone about the value and effectiveness of quality nighttime lighting. The IDA believes in a united approach that is very supportive of the many local and individual efforts.

About Sky & Telescope
Sky Publishing Corp. was founded in 1941 by Charles A. Federer Jr. and Helen Spence Federer, the original editors of Sky & Telescope magazine. The company's headquarters are in Cambridge, Massachusetts, near the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In addition to Sky & Telescope and SkyandTelescope.com, the company publishes an annual magazine called SkyWatch as well as books, star atlases, posters, prints, globes, and other fine astronomy products.


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