Lightening bugs lost in light pollution

Posted By Pamela on Jun 29, 2007 | 2 comments

This evening I’m going avoid saying anything too profound or educational. My evening was spent eating grilled foods, and drinking things I’m sure weren’t healthy as I kicked back with many of the other faculty and their spouses. There is a magical hour here in our middle-class suburban existence when the fireflies begin to flicker in the grass and the stars and planets begin to spring out of the sky. In the cities where I have lived for most of my adult life this magical hour was missing – the stars and the bugs had both been consumed by the cement and illumination of urban existence.

I knew about stars being effected by light pollution, but it was only tonight that I realized lightening bugs also disappear when every light is turned on.

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study to see how people’s opinion of how space exploration and astronomy research should be funded is effected by the levels of light pollution in their area. How does someone who can never see a full constellation above a building filled horizon in a light polluted city learn to love the stars?


  1. I live in a suburb (sp?) of Antwerp +- 20min by bus. But I’m like 200-300m away from the edge of the port of Antwerp… I can tell you nobody around me is even slightly interested in Astronomy.

    And It always amazes me when I’m on vacation in france, swiss,… how many stars there… and at the high level of general animal activity at night, I’m not talking about bugs alone but also about owls, foxes,…

    I think the question you states is an interesting one that could well be expanded to wildlife preservation aswel. Sure the red foxes in belgium are declining… I’ve only see one or two in my life… but if you grow up in the city you don’t know any better… people on who live in small town may see 2-4 a week and if that drops to 1-2 a week they might worry.

    But the John Doe in the city doesn’t.

  2. I was at a pool party last night. Venus came up, and i pointed it out. Jupiter became visible, and i pointed that out. A bit later, Saturn was clearly visible near Venus. The host talked about the family’s disaster encounter with a department store scope. It ended up in a garage sale. However, when i mentioned that i had a 10 inch scope, they invited me to visit with it.

    In my opinion, it isn’t the size of the scope that matters so much. It’s the darkness of the skies and the ability to find interesting objects. My dob has a computer object locator, which helps the novice (that’s me) find stuff. And, an Oxygen 3 filter allows views of nebulae even from downtown Detroit. Oxygen 3 rejects most of the light. But, i’ve seen the Eagle Nebula in O3 in a 6 inch refractor.

    So, the minimum cost scope seems to be a 6 inch Dob with computer. Orion’s xt6i is $500. An Oxygen 3 filter is $90. Add a membership at a local club, so someone can help set it up, list good things to look for and provide social context. Add a subscription to Sky & Telescope, or a monthly trip to the local library. My library carries Astronomy magazine.

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