November 06, 2005

Light pollution: Yet another reason to not live in or near built up areas

For a number of reasons, I decided to take a walk this evening. I love evening walks – cool crisp air, peacefulness etc. However, one of the things I really hate about living here is the amount of light pollution we get, living near an urban area. Unless you've been to the countryside and looked up, you won't know what I'm on about. Back home, on a clear night like we have tonight you can see thousands of stars decorating the night sky; it's magical. Here, you can see maybe 50. And one of those was a planet. The amount of energy we waste just lighting up empty streets of an evening and throwing immense levels of light skyward pointlessly and irritatingly for those who like to stargaze is just ludicrous. Grrrrr I want to move back home :-(

On a more positive note, I saw a shooting star. I know they're quite common, but I don't see them very often at all and it kind of made my evening. Just thought I'd share.

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  1. The best sky I ever saw was from the middle of the jungle in Sarawak, Borneo, aged 10: absolutely stunning.

    Glad your evening was made.

    06 Nov 2005, 23:40

  2. Much more domestic than Simon Youngs, but maybe 50 is too hopeful. I'm lucky if I can see even 1 star in London. In Newcastle I used to look up as a kid when I was outside and see the cool sky.
    I suppose that helps making camping trips more of a stargazing event.

    07 Nov 2005, 01:28

  3. I totally totally understand where you're coming from.
    It really bugs me.

    If you get away from the centre of town, it's not so bad, but you do have to travel a fair way to make it worth it.
    Country skies are beautiful – I miss them.

    Also – I miss you guys a lot. We should go for a drink (although I shall not be partaking in alcohol, as previously stated on blog)


    07 Nov 2005, 10:05

  4. Guy Fawkes

    Q: What significant event in the UK social calendar took place over the last weekend?
    Q: How could this effect the quality of the lower atmosphere?
    Q: What impact would you anticipate this may have on the degree of light pollution over the past weekend?
    Q: Do motor vehicles have a similar (if reduced) impact throughout the rest of the year?
    Q: Do you ever really think about anything you say before you say it?

    07 Nov 2005, 15:45

  5. "Guy Fawkes" – a little interesting fact for you. Light travels at the speed of light unsurprisingly, which means that any light generated by city lights, fireworks, motor vehicle lights or anything else is dissipated practically instantaneously. By far and away the major source of light pollution is in fact street lighting, which is on constantly outside daylight hours and only found in built-up areas. I think you'll find the effect of the air in the lower atmosphere from fireworks night is pretty negligible, and as for the amount of light they emit – well as I said, it's a sudden flash and then the light is dissipated so not very significant. Certainly not at 11pm. Same goes for cars really. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

    07 Nov 2005, 16:10

  6. Oh dear lord.
    Why does Siggy's blog attract such strange and rude people?

    He's not just talking about this one walk, he's talking about the general state of the skies above towns and cities, and of course cars have an impact – you'd be totally stupid to think they didn't. It's people who don't look after their cars, not people who love cars, who are more to blame anyway.

    He's not slagging off the towns – more harking back to the good ol' days living in the country… Which, incidentally, are dying out because townies are moving in and building supermarkets all over the place because they can't live without their Tesco Finest Garlic Bread.

    Q: Are you a completely self-important nob?

    (Love ya, Sig :) )


    07 Nov 2005, 16:18

  7. The townies have been campaigning for street lighting in our village for ages now. What's wrong with a torch dammit!

    07 Nov 2005, 16:32

  8. Wimps, the lot of them.



    07 Nov 2005, 16:41

  9. Guy Fawkes

    ok, you're clearly an idiot I'll answer the questions for you…

    Q: What significant event in the UK social calendar took place over the last weekend?
    A: i think you got this one. Bonfire night.

    Q: How could this effect the quality of the lower atmosphere?
    A: THE LIGHT FROM FIREWORKS IS NOT THE PRIMARY ISSUE, TWIT. Particulate pollution from all those bonfires, helps create a low-grade smog.

    Q: What impact would you anticipate this may have on the degree of light pollution over the past weekend?
    A: Light (which, yes, is traveling at the speed of light – give yourself a gold star) is refracted and scattered to produce a dull background orange glow – which obstructs your view of the heavens.

    Q: What impact would you anticipate this may have on the degree of light pollution over the past weekend?
    A: Over the previous weekend one could expect a more obstructed view than may otherwise be the case

    Q: Do motor vehicles have a similar (if reduced) impact throughout the rest of the year?
    A: OK, "motor vehicle lights" are not really the issue. The point is, the pollution produced by motor vehicles contributes to a similar problem through the rest of the year.
    The essential point you missed when you read the questions and flew off the handle is that they were not talking about the light source, rather they were pointing out that THE DEGREE OF LIGHT POLLUTION WILL CLEARLY BE MUCH WORSE AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR.

    Q: Do you ever really think about anything you say before you say it?
    A: No, clearly not.

    And why does this ignoramus attract these comments to his 'blog'. Well, 'Lorna' it's because he's an ignoramus.

    07 Nov 2005, 17:44

  10. R4ptor

    errrr. bonfire night eh? i guess that explains all the noise! Yeah i think thats trueish but light pollution is still a pretty big problem, especially if your an amateur astronomer. thnk of poor ol patrick moore! I used to live in the sticks though and we still had a fair bit of a problem there. you need to go into the middle of nowhere for a decent view on a good night you could see the milkyway from my folks back garden but that was very rare.

    07 Nov 2005, 17:53

  11. Unless Guy was actually stood at a fireworks display, or just downwind of a major one the same night, there'd be negligible difference between a cool, crisp November evening (when atmospheric conditions otherwise conspire to give better than average visibility) and any other night of the year.

    Light pollution isn't the result of reflection off particulate pollution so much as scattering via water vapour and other 'natural' gaseous molecules in the atmosphere.

    07 Nov 2005, 18:34

  12. The most beauitful skies ive ever seen were in Co Donegal in Ireland – they were amazing!

    08 Nov 2005, 08:55

  13. Trace Brazen

    Did you know that Patrick Moore plays the xylophone?


    08 Nov 2005, 11:39

  14. Oh dear. Mr Fawkes, you're more of a self-important idiot than I first assumed.
    I did realise you were going on about pollution. I'm really not that stupid, thank you.

    I don't think anywhere in my reply did I say I thought you were going on about the light from the fireworks and cars – in fact, I think the section:

    and of course cars have an impact – you'd be totally stupid to think they didn't. It's people who don't look after their cars, not people who love cars, who are more to blame anyway

    outlines that perfectly well. Clearly, I'm talking about people who don't look after their cars adding to the levels of pollution more than the ones who do.

    And Siggy is not an ignoramus – at least he has the decency to put his real name behind debates he takes part in. Also, why you put blog in inverted commas, I have no idea.

    What a total loser you are.



    PS - Yes, Trace, I did. That's cos he kicks ass!

    08 Nov 2005, 12:20

  15. Visiting Atheist

    Those of us who do live in the countryside just use our eyes… you know, night adaptation? There are no street lights in my village and long may it stay that way. Means I can get my telescope out and pointing up at the sky now that Mars is there in all its glory. Of course, I've now discovered that it's not big enough to get a good look!

    08 Nov 2005, 12:41

  16. Well I'm always open to be persuaded Mr Fawkes, but thus far you have failed to back up your claims that light pollution is worsened significantly by trace atmospheric pollution from cars and bonfires. I was perfectly aware all along that you were mentioning atmospheric pollution levels; however as the said effect isn't significant (especially as the air quality this time of year is usually above average as SiY pointed out), I chose to ignore it as it's off topic – this post was discussing light pollution and not atmospheric pollution. So remind me again who's an ignoramus?

    Trace – yes I did know, and yes Moore is a legend. I remember well an episode of Have I Got News For You where he was a panellist and played the theme tune out at the end with his Xylophone – that was pretty good!

    08 Nov 2005, 12:46

  17. Visiting Atheist

    People who know more about astronomy than me seem to think that anywhere in the developed world is pretty bad 'seeing air' due to the pollution in the air as well as the different temperature layers (or something similar) making the air move about and messing with refraction etc hence the tendency for the really big telescopes to appear at the top of volcanos miles away from any sort of civilisation.

    But if you could arrange for the good people of Northampton, Daventry, Coventry and Birmingham to turn down the lights I'd be grateful!

    08 Nov 2005, 13:00

  18. Visiting Atheist

    By the way, there is one of the regular annual meteor showers going on at the moment, the Taurids. There are a lot of fireballs coming in at the moment rather than the usual thin streak that most metoerites produce because of the size of the debris that is hitting the atmosphere. Maybe that's what you saw.

    08 Nov 2005, 13:28

  19. Trace Brazen

    While that cartoon is funny, Patrick Moore doesn't kick ass, he's a UKIP supporting loony racist

    08 Nov 2005, 14:12

  20. Fair.
    Politics aside, he rocks.


    08 Nov 2005, 15:15

  21. GOD




    09 Nov 2005, 02:26

  22. Lorna says that God should learn more about the appropriate use of apostrophes.


    09 Nov 2005, 10:38

  23. GOD




    09 Nov 2005, 12:04

  24. Siggy says Lorna is correct but too fussy and should let God have a day off, before she becomes as anal as Siggy from which point there is no hope of return :-)


    09 Nov 2005, 12:51

  25. Fair.


    09 Nov 2005, 13:27

  26. Lindsey

    Lindsey says that if she is not mistaken, it should be "nobody's perfect".

    But then, Lindsey just spelled orange wrong twice and had to retype this. So she might be wrong. :p

    09 Nov 2005, 15:08

  27. GOD





    09 Nov 2005, 15:38

  28. Haha – I was going to say that Lindsey, but decided against it given my previous telling off…


    09 Nov 2005, 15:56

  29. Lindsey

    I figured as such, I just find talking in third person to be quite fun so I thought I would join in!

    10 Nov 2005, 03:00

  30. Tori Spelling

    Go stand in the middle of Hearsall Common, it's usually good enough to see the stars from there.

    12 Nov 2005, 20:54

  31. I'll try that, thanks Tori. Now I just need to find Hearsall Common!

    13 Nov 2005, 12:57

  32. Tori Spelling

    How many years have you been at this university and you don't know where Hearsall Common is? It's the big common in Earlsdon that the number 12 bus goes past.

    I'm sure there are other spots around campus that would be ok too, try the sports pavilion or the field by the road up to gibbet hill, lots of rabbits there too!

    14 Nov 2005, 11:01

  33. Visiting Atheist

    Cor, that was scary for a moment before I went and checked my spelling. Thought you meant Horsell Common…. where the Martians landed and started singing "Oooo-La!" … I seem to recall they were first mistaken for a meteorite shower, too…


    14 Nov 2005, 11:02

  34. How would I know that? Have I ever been on the number 12 bus or to Earlsdon! Sports Pavillion sounds like a good bet. And Visiting Atheist, that's slightly amusing :-)

    14 Nov 2005, 11:12

  35. Tori Spelling

    I wouldn't know if you've been on the 12 or not, but it's strange you've never been to Earlsdon? It's not like the bus has a guide that tells you where it is, that was just how I know it.

    I really think it's bad the way students don't know more about the local community.

    14 Nov 2005, 13:38

  36. Visiting Atheist

    Possibly the locals know all too much about the students….!!

    14 Nov 2005, 14:39

  37. I know where the important things are – like roads home, where my friends live, where the important shops are and where the cinema is, and location of petrol stations. Other than that, why would I know anywhere? :-S

    14 Nov 2005, 16:04

  38. Tori Spelling

    Dunno if you know who Frank Whittle is, but this is a fact about Hearsall Common:

    "A PLAQUE on Hearsall Common in Earlsdon marks the spot where Sir Frank Whittle first discovered his fascination for aeroplanes.

    The plaque was put up to mark an occasion in 1916 when a crowd of youngsters, including eight-year-old Frank, gathered round an aeroplane that had been forced to land on the common.

    As it took off it nearly hit him – knocking his cap off and triggering a lifelong fascination that led to his invention of the jet engine more than 20 years later.

    The first flight powered by Whittle’s engine was on May 15, 1941, during the Second World War.

    The experimental fighter plane flew for just 17 minutes, but it was a turning point in aviation history that made world travel available to ordinary people.

    14 Nov 2005, 16:26

  39. Wow – someone managed to find the only decent thing about Coventry!
    Rock on.

    Go on – bite me, all of you :P


    14 Nov 2005, 18:34

  40. I did know who Frank Whittle is but I didn't know that about him! I might have to go and find the plaque… And Lorna, what do you mean the only decent thing about Coventry? Jaguar darling!!!!


    14 Nov 2005, 19:04

  41. Ooh – fair.
    But it's not really in Coventry…


    14 Nov 2005, 19:14

  42. Browns Lane is the home of Jaguar, and that's Coventry :-P


    14 Nov 2005, 19:19

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