KALMIOPSIS AUDUBON SOCIETY DARK SKY PROJECT
Dark Sky, One Light At A Time!
Kalmiopsis Audubon Society in cooperation with Coos Curry Electric Cooperative (CCEC) and the City of Port Orford embarked on a project to reduce "sky glow" over Port Orford in January 2000.
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Sky glow is the amber or pink light on the horizon that is visible from miles away as you approach nearly every city on the planet. The "glow" is caused by light that spills and escapes upward toward the sky. Inside the dome of "glow," the night sky is greatly diminished to the point that, in many large cities, only the brightest celestial body--the moon--is visible.
An estimated 80 percent of people now living in North America and Western Europe no longer experience "real night" owing to light pollution. In many places, the starry sky view that has awed and inspired humanity for millennia has been lost.
The primary goal of the KAS Dark Sky Project was to educate the Port Orford community about the special value of our still-dark sky and to retrofit 100 old mercury vapor lights--some privately owned, some leased from CCEC—with modern shades, known as "sky caps," that direct the light to the ground.
Mercury vapor lights are responsible for the vast majority of escaped light. Ubiquitous and cheap, they are known as "yard lights" or dusk-to-dawn "security lights." Designed more than 60 years ago, they have a lens that allows light to spill outward and upward, causing sky glow and glare.
These bright lights also cause "light trespass" into neighboring yards and bedroom windows, diminishing quality of life for neighbors. This is an issue that can also be addressed by retrofitting mercury vapor lights with a skycap.
Since the project first started, KAS and CCEC volunteers have helped retrofit upward leaking fixtures, one light at a time. There are now over 125 skycaps up in the Port Orford area, and many people have replaced out-of-date yard lights. Most new light fixtures on highways and in parking lots are now designed to focus light down where it's needed (see lights at Ray's Market in down town Port Orford, for example). For that reason, modern lights are also more energy efficient.
In general, proper lighting saves energy dollars, reduces glare, protects the night sky, and makes good neighbors
In February 2010, the City of Port Orford took the forward-looking step of passing a Dark Sky ordinance. To read it, click on the link below.
"Without the inspiration of starlight and the night, much of the world's science, literature, art, and music would not exist."
To Help Keep Our Sky Dark
Retrofit upward leaking lights with skycaps
Build homemade shields to keep light focused downward
Point floodlights downward
Light signs with downward facing fixtures from above
Use lower wattage bulbs for external or internally lit signs
Turn off lights when they are not needed
Reevaluate lighting needs
Talk with friends and neighbors about the value of our special dark sky with its sparkling stars
The Dark Sky Movement
The movement to protect dark skies started with astronomers in Arizona wanting to conserve the opportunity to study the night sky. The idea spread quickly to people who simply wanted to enjoy the night sky from their backyards.
Nationally, there are now Dark Sky states, counties, cities, and sky parks. In Oregon, there are at least 8 cities--Sisters, Juniper, Port Orford, and Sandy, to name a few-- and Deschutes County with Dark Sky ordinances. Internationally, there are Dark Sky nations and cities, and special Dark Sky parks.
For more information about the Dark Sky movement, check out:
To learn more about the problem of light pollution, click here for a good article.
To learn more about the value of dark skies, watch this 6 minute video, called Losing the Dark.
To learn more about health impacts of night light, listen to this radio spot, called, Turning it Down.
To learn more about the economic benefits of Dark Skies, read this short post: 3 Benefits of Dark Sky Designation
Also, check out this video: The Hidden Costs of Light Pollution.
For a more contemplative experience, read the essays in the wonderful book: Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, available at the Port Orford Library (donated by KAS). Here's a review.
Here is the Port Orford Dark Sky ordinance, adopted unanimously by the Port Orford City Council in February 2010.
To learn more about what other cities have done to protect their night skies, you can review these two sample Dark Sky municipal ordinances:
PICK THE RIGHT LIGHT FIXTURES!
Click here for a primer on the basics of effective Outdoor Lighting.
Click here for a diagram that compares Dark Sky-compatible light fixtures with upward- leaking light fixtures.
Click here for a diagram of shading devices that can be used to make light fixtures Dark Sky compliant.
Click here for an article about shielding flood lights.
To learn more about the KAS Dark Sky Project in Port Orford, contact Al Geiser (oceantribe @frontier.com)
Night sky photos on this page were taken in Port Orford by Lois Miller.