Tag Archives: Paul Bogard

International Dark Sky Week April 19-26

International Dark Sky Week is coming around at just the right time. The weeklong (April 19-26) celebration of the night is supported by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). It is an opportunity for us all to consider the role of the night and its star-filled sky in each of our lives. This year, IDA is encouraging people around the world to come together online to celebrate the night and engage with authors, creators, scientists, and educators whose works have been vital to the movement to protect the night from light pollution.

“Right now, families around the globe find themselves spending many hours at home together,” notes Ruskin Hartley, IDA’s executive director. “It’s a perfect time to reconnect with the night sky — and International Dark-Sky Week provides a portal for that experience.”

The week includes online presentations by a couple of authors that we have featured in the past on Seattle Astronomy. Paul Bogard wrote one of our favorite books, The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light (Little, Brown and Company, 2013). Bogard will do a reading from the book Tuesday, April 21. Tyler Nordgren, a professor of physics and an artist, will do a talk about the role of art in conversation on Monday, April 20. Nordgren has created a series of great solar system travel posters and is the author of Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets (Basic Books, 2016). Jeffrey Bennett, author of What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter (Columbia University Press, 2014), will give a presentation called “I, Humanity” on Sunday, April 19. It is geared toward kids in grades five through seven.

There will be numerous other presentations about various astronomical topics. You can access the full schedule online, but beware that it isn’t particularly user friendly, and specific times for most of the presentations have not yet been set as of this writing.

Further reading:

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Gorge night sky symposium sparks good lighting conversations

A diverse group of night-sky enthusiasts, business people, lighting designers, and government officials gathered last month in Goldendale, Washington and The Dalles, Oregon for a two-day symposium for discussion of measures that might be taken to protect the supremely dark night skies in the Columbia River Gorge. While Seattle Astronomy was unable to attend because of travel, we did speak recently with symposium organizer Jonathan Lewis, who said the event was a big success because it got some great conversations started.

LEDs can be good

Goldendale Observatory

The Goldendale Observatory was one of the sites for a two-day symposium about dark skies in the Columbia River Gorge. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Notably, Lewis said that author Paul Bogard portrayed LED lighting as the enemy during his keynote talk to open the symposium, but participants were able to change some minds.

“By the end of it we realized that the LED technology has a lot of potential to make the dark skies much better if it’s done properly,” Lewis said. “That was really the goal, to get that message out.”

Lewis gave several examples of talks that were learning experiences for symposium attendees. Gary Chittim of a lighting company called PlanLED discussed human-centric lighting that takes into account our circadian rhythms and other factors. LED lighting can be turned down low in the evening and much hotter during the day to mimic the Sun.

“Our relationship with lighting can, with LEDs, mimic a more natural environment, not only at night but also during the day,” Lewis noted.

Another speaker, Rob Leonard of Echelon, demonstrated interesting possibilities for the control of LEDs to provide as much light as needed when it is needed. LEDs can be set to dim at certain hours, and to get brighter only when people move near them. There’s even an app with an emergency button that can allow a person to turn up the lights if they’re concerned they’re being stalked at night.

“Amazing sci-fi stuff that they have available right now,” Lewis said, adding that Echelon is helping to put in controlled lights in Goldendale.

Lighting the ballfield

Sports teams have been among the loudest objectors when strong lighting ordinances are suggested, but Leonard also talked about arena lighting, and said that sports stadia can now be lit more evenly with minimal glare or light trespass.

“All of those things are greatly improved with the newer LED technology that’s available, so a lot of the arguments that sports groups might have against lighting ordinances maybe will go away because of the new technology,” Lewis said.

Building political support

Most of the “right people” attended the symposium, according to Lewis, including officials from Wasco County in Oregon, city commissioners from Hood River, and representatives from Columbia Gorge Scenic Area groups. State Rep. Gina McCabe (R-Goldendale) attended and stated that the attraction of the dark skies is important for tourism in the area.

“She’s definitely a leader in the business community, and having the businesses hear what she had to say and to have that be an important part of her agenda was really important,” Lewis said. He’s hoping McCabe can help engage on some statewide issues. For example, sometimes lighting ordinances aren’t enforced adequately in smaller communities because they don’t have their own electrical inspectors and rely instead on state inspectors through the Department of Labor and Industries. State legislation could allow L&I inspectors to enforce or urge compliance with local ordinances even though they serve different jurisdictions.

“Some conversations like that were able to get started,” Lewis said.

The conversations are continuing, Lewis said. There’s some talk about creating a Gorge-wide dark sky area project, which he called, “a very exciting possibility.” There’s also a movement afoot to start collecting data about light levels in the Gorge. Lewis noted that people who wish to follow these efforts can sign up for newsletters from the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District and the Friends of the Goldendale Observatory.

If you missed the symposium as we did, you’ll find videos of the various presentations below following our podcast of our interview with Lewis.

Podcast of our interview with Jonathan Lewis about the symposium:

Videos of presentations from the dark-sky symposium:

Paul Bogard visit highlights week’s astronomy calendar

A couple of appearances by author and dark-sky advocate Paul Bogard highlight this week’s calendar of events.

Bogard, author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light (Little, Brown, 2013) will be the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Seattle Astronomical Society at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 17 in room A102 of the Physics Astronomy Building on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Bogard is a marvelous writer and a wonderful speaker. You can pick up his book at the link above or by clicking the photo to the left. Check out our review of his talk at Town Hall Seattle in 2013.

After speaking with SAS Bogard will head off to eastern Washington, where he will keynote the opening night of the Gorge Night Sky Symposium. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. Thursday, August 18 at the Goldendale Observatory State Park. Bogard will also speak during the symposium workshop, which begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday, August 19 at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, Oregon.

The symposium is aimed at building support for protection of the outstanding dark night skies in Goldendale and throughout the Columbia River Gorge. Registration for both days of the symposium is $55 and can be done online. The symposium website has detailed agenda information, and you can also check out our preview post and podcast about the symposium.

Rose City Astronomers in Portland will get a primer on gravitational lensing at their meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, August 15 at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The guest speaker will be Dr. Jes Ford, a data science postdoctoral fellow in the eScience Institute at the University of Washington.

Symposium to tackle dark-sky issues in Columbia River Gorge

It’s still really dark at night in Goldendale, Washington. Goldendale Observatory State Park has been designated as an international dark-sky park by the International Dark-Sky Association, and the area sits at the northern end of what is arguably the best stretch of good, dark, night sky left in the United States, running south through eastern Oregon and even into northern Nevada and California.

“We’re really blessed with dark skies,” said Jonathan Lewis, a board member of the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce who heads up the renewable energy division for Hire Electric in The Dalles, Oregon. “People buy property out here so they can see the Milky Way.”

“We’re close enough to Seattle and Portland that it makes it practical for people to come out here just to enjoy the night sky,” Lewis added.

That sky needs some maintenance.

Threats to the night sky

Goldendale Observatory

The Goldendale Observatory State Park sits on a bluff above the city and has a spectacular view of Mt. Hood. A symposium aimed at preserving dark skies in the Columbia Gorge will be held in Goldendale and The Dalles Aug. 18-19. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

“We’re realizing that the night sky, even in our rural communities, is in danger with the rapid deployment of LED technology, primarily,” Lewis noted. “It’s just getting cheaper and cheaper to do brighter and brighter lights.”

Brighter is not better. The City of Goldendale is in the process of revamping its lighting ordinance, and will soon be upgrading its street lighting. As discussions occurred, Lewis sensed that the lighting people and the lovers of dark night skies were not always on the same page.

“Out of all of that, this idea for a symposium to get the lighting industry professionals and the astronomy folks together in the same place to talk about challenges and ways to make this all happen came about,” Lewis said.

The Gorge Night Sky Symposium

The Goldendale Area Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Goldendale Observatory, and the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District are organizing the Gorge Night Sky Symposium, which will be held August 18-19, 2016, at the Goldendale Observatory State Park and at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles. The event has also received a significant sponsorship grant from Google, which operates a data center in The Dalles, as well as from a variety of other supporters.

The symposium session Thursday, August 18 at the observatory will feature food and drink as well as a keynote talk from Paul Bogard, dark-sky activist and author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light (Little, Brown, 2013). (Catch our review of Bogard’s talk at Town Hall Seattle from 2013.) The Friday sessions at the Discovery Center will include a presentation by David Ingram, chair of Dark Skies Northwest, the regional chapter of the IDA. There will also be talks about how bad lighting effects wildlife. The afternoon will include working groups about lighting technology, ordinance making, and lighting incentive programs and how to make them work to encourage people to choose dark-sky compliant fixtures.

The symposium has already attracted a pretty thorough list of decision makers, operators of major businesses in the Gorge, and energy services staff from area utilities. Lewis figures this gives them a good chance to reach their goals for the symposium:

“To heighten the awareness, so that when people are out talking in their community or encouraging people to upgrade in their lighting, they add the dark-sky piece to it,” he said, and, “To make it hard for people to buy non-dark-sky-compliant lighting in the Gorge.”

Lighting history in Goldendale

There’s a bit of irony in the notion that this effort has to happen in Goldendale. Amateur astronomers from Vancouver, Washington built the observatory’s primary telescope, a 24 1/2-inch instrument, in the early 1970s. They donated it to the city under the stipulation that it enact a lighting ordinance.

“Goldendale really had one of the first lighting ordinances” in the state, said Lewis, but it’s a bit out of date. “It was based on high-pressure sodium, full shielding, very different technologies.”

On top of that, enforcement of the existing code has been inconsistent at best.

“The lighting has gone sideways a little bit,” Lewis said. “Now, as people are looking to retrofit, we’d like to get a handle on that.”

A good dark sky at night is important to Goldendale, because astronomy tourism has become significant for the local economy. Upwards of 20,000 visitors stop in at the observatory each year, and many astronomy clubs hold observing events in the area.

“The key piece for the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce in our tourism strategy is to get more people to this observatory,” Lewis said. “It’s very important.”

Improvements at the observatory

Goldendale Observatory

Wind power turbines line the horizon as seen from Goldendale Observatory State Park. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Lewis noted that there have been positive changes at the observatory of late. Recently hired staff have been an improvement, and the state will invest about $6 million in the park over the next four years. That will pay for refurbishing the main telescope, one of the largest public scopes in operation. The work will essentially bring it up to research grade. They’ll also remodel the facility to include a bigger meeting room and auditorium.

“It’s very exciting what the state parks are doing with this observatory,” Lewis said.

If you would like to attend the symposium, you can register online through the Mid Columbia Economic Development District. The fee for the full symposium is just $55, and there are one-day sessions available as well.

Podcast of our interview with Jonathan Lewis:

More information:

Gifts for the astronomy enthusiast on your list

Many Seattle Astronomy readers seem to be looking for gifts to give to the astro-enthusiasts on their lists this time of year, and often ask us for advice. We have some!

It doesn’t change much from year to year. Check our posts Gifts for the astronomy enthusiast from last year, Picking a gift for the astronomy buff from 2013, and Choosing a gift telescope from 2012. Too busy to scrape around in the past? A few quick tips:

Visit the Seattle Astronomy Store. It’s packed with our favorite gear, books we’ve read from authors we’ve interviewed, cameras, gadgets, and accessories.

Trying to pick a first telescope for someone? The book The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide (Firefly Books, 2008) by Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer is a great reference, offers fantastic advice about what to consider when choosing a telescope, and makes a great gift in and of itself. It helped me get started, lo those many years ago, and I still use it often. This is the best gift for anyone who is interested in amateur astronomy, but who may not have much idea about how to get started in the hobby.

More books

It’s great to be able to read about astronomy in an area in which rain and clouds are the norm about 11 months of the year. While our store has a big selection, there are a number of good choices that are new in the last year or so, and whose authors have made presentations here in town.

What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter (Columbia University Press, 2014) by Jeffrey Bennett is a wonderfully approachable primer on a topic that many people find mind bending, perhaps just because it never gets explained so well. Pick this one up and your gift recipient will be explaining the fabric of spacetime to one and all. Bennett did an interview with us in March and spoke at the April meeting of the Seattle Astronomical Society. He’s been touring the country in support of the book in observance of the 100th anniversary of the Theory of Relativity.

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe (Ecco, 2015). Harvard astrophysicist Lisa Randall did a talk at Town Hall Seattle in November. Her idea about how dark matter may have done in the large reptiles 65 million years ago is an interesting and relatively simple one. Her research for the next few years will be focused on trying to find evidence that her notion is valid, and that a type of particle of dark matter that reacts to “dark light” may be behind mass extinctions.

Spooky Action at a Distance: The Phenomenon That Reimagines Space and Time–and What It Means for Black Holes, the Big Bang, and Theories of Everything (Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015). Author George Musser also talked at Town Hall in November and took a shot at explaining quantum entanglement. He noted that we’re starting to see the hazy outlines of an answer to questions about the how particles in different locations appear to act on each other, but adds that there are still scientists who don’t really believe that non-locality is a real thing.

After Apollo?: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program (Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology) and John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon (Both Palgrave Macmillan, 2015 and 2010, respectively). Space historian John Logsdon did two speeches in Seattle this year, one at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society back in January, and the other in June at the Museum of Flight. He insterestingly described the race to the Moon as a one-sided one that we almost lost anyway. A perfect couple of volumes for those interested in the history of space exploration.

The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light by Paul Bogard. This isn’t a new book, but we absolutely love it for its beautiful writing as well as its important message. Bogard spoke in Seattle two years ago and we’ve been raving about the book ever since.

Emily Lackdawalla of the Planetary Society did a post last year with suggestions for astronomy books for children, and Bennett has also done a number of acclaimed books for children, with links included at the end of our post based on our interview with him.

New experts in town

Cloud Break OpticsIf you’re looking for gear there are new experts in town to help you out. Cloud Break Optics opened earlier this year in Ballard, and it’s the first astronomy shop in town ages that is owned and operated by and for amateur astronomers. Stephanie Anderson and Matt Dahl are the proprietors, they know their stuff, and are more than happy to share. They take online orders, but why not drop by, meet some new friends, see all of those telescopes and eyepieces and gadgets in person, and buy from your local small business.

Cameras

We are decidedly not astrophotographers, but our friend The Soggy Astronomer is, and he wrote an article earlier this year about good camera choices for this aspect of the hobby. Our post gives a brief summary, and his top picks are included in our store.

The End of Night

Paul Bogard laments the loss of the beauty of the stars and the night sky.

“Walking out of your door and seeing the Milky Way for ever was one of the most common human experiences, and now it’s become one of the most rare human experiences,” said Bogard, author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light. “Estimates are now that eight of 10 kids born in the United States will never live where they can see the Milky Way” because of light pollution.

“There’s been a real switch and, I think, with great cost,” Bogard said during a talk this week at Town Hall Seattle.

Paul Bogard

Author Paul Bogard spoke about The End of Night at Town Hall Seattle on Oct. 8, 2013. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Bogard, an English professor at James Madison University, first got interested in the stars as a kid. He grew up in Minneapolis and his family had a lake cabin in Northern Minnesota, where he spent summer nights looking up.

“Year after year of seeing that night sky in the summer made a lasting impact on me,” he said.

Even more impressive was a post-college backpacking trip in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, where he described a night sky so dark it was like a dream; the millions of stars looked like a snowstorm.

“I felt open to everything, as though I was made of clay and the world was imprinting upon me its breathtaking beauty,” Bogard read from the book. “Standing nearly naked under that Moroccan sky, skin against the air, the dark, the stars, the night pressed its impression and my life-long connection was sealed.”

Much of The End of Night relates Bogard’s experiences visiting the brightest and the darkest places we can get to, sometimes within hours of each other, such as the time he drove from the bright lights of Las Vegas to the pitch dark of Great Basin National Park in Eastern Nevada.

During the talk Bogard shared the familiar photo of the Earth at night, and observed that it’s a beautiful image, but that he doesn’t like what it depicts.

“What we’re seeing here is waste,” he said. “Nearly all of the light we see here is shining up in to the sky, it’s wasted, it’s not doing anybody any good.”

The End of Night

While the loss of the splendor of the night sky is terrible, Bogard noted that the other effects of light pollution may be more compelling reasons to do something, from a public policy standpoint. Poor lighting can actually reduce safety and security, and it harms wildlife. He also said there’s growing evidence of light pollution’s health effects on humans. Our sleep is disrupted and our circadian rhythms confused, and bright nights impede our production of melatonin, which could lead to breast and prostate cancer. In fact, Bogard noted that the World Health Organization now considers working the night shift to be a possible carcinogen.

He praised the work of the International Dark-sky Association; the chair of its local chapter, David Ingram, was part of the audience at the talk. Bogard hopes The End of Night inspires a better approach to night lighting.

“What I was trying to do with the book is to raise awareness about the issue,” he said. “Once people become aware of the beauty that we’re talking about, what we’re losing, the threats of light pollution, I think most people will realize that we can do a better job of lighting the night or leaving some of it dark.”