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The Night Sky

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
light pollution noun noun: light pollution
  1. brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources, which has a disruptive effect on natural cycles and inhibits the observation of stars and planets. "for many astronomers light pollution has been a disaster"

Light pollution, also known as photo pollution, is the presence of anthropogenic and artificial light in the night environment. It is exacerbated by excessive, misdirected or obtrusive use of light, but even carefully used light fundamentally alters natural conditions. As a major side-effect of urbanization, it is blamed for compromising health, disrupting ecosystems and spoiling aesthetic environments. 
Light pollution competes with starlight in the night sky for urban residents, interferes with astronomical observatories and, like any other form of pollution, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.  Light pollution is a side-effect of industrial civilization. Its sources include building exterior and interior lighting, advertising, outdoor area lighting (e.g. car parks/parking lots), offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues. It is most severe in highly industrialized, densely populated areas of North America, Europe and Japan and in major cities in the Middle East and North Africa like Tehran and Cairo, but even relatively small amounts of light can be noticed and create problems. Awareness of the deleterious effects of light pollution began early in the 20th century but efforts to address effects did not begin until the 1950s. In the 1980s a global dark-sky movement emerged with the founding of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). There are now such educational and advocacy organizations in many countries worldwide.  When artificial light affects organisms and ecosystems it is called ecological light pollution. While light at night can be beneficial, neutral, or damaging for individual species, its presence invariably disturbs ecosystems. For example, some species of spiders avoid lit areas, while other species are happy to build their spider web directly on a lamp post. Since lamp posts attract many flying insects, the spiders that don't mind light gain an advantage over the spiders that avoid it. This is a simple example of the way in which species frequencies and food webs can be disturbed by the introduction of light at night. Light pollution poses a serious threat in particular to nocturnal wildlife, having negative impacts on plant and animal physiology. It can confuse animal navigation, alter competitive interactions, change predator-prey relations, and cause physiological harm. The rhythm of life is orchestrated by the natural diurnal patterns of light and dark, so disruption to these patterns impacts the ecological dynamics.  Studies suggest that light pollution around lakes prevents zooplankton, such as Daphnia, from eating surface algae, causing algal blooms that can kill off the lakes' plants and lower water quality. Light pollution may also affect ecosystems in other ways. For example, lepidopterists and entomologists have documented that nighttime light may interfere with the ability of moths and other nocturnal insects to navigate. Night-blooming flowers that depend on moths for pollination may be affected by night lighting, as there is no replacement pollinator that would not be affected by the artificial light. This can lead to species decline of plants that are unable to reproduce, and change an area's longterm ecology. Among nocturnal insects, fireflies are especially interesting study objects for light pollution bed, because they depend on their own light to reproduce and consequently are very sensitive to environmental levels of light. Fireflies are charismatic.(which is a rare quality among insects) and are easily spotted by non experts and due to their sensibility and rapid response to environmental changes, good bioindicators for artificial night lighting. Massive insect declines have been suggested as being at least partially mediated by artificial lights at night. Dark Sky A dark-sky preserve (DSP) is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory, that restricts artificial light pollution The purpose of a dark sky preserve is generally to promote astronomy Because different national organizations have worked independently to create their programs, different terms have been used to describe the areas. This has led to confusion between the terms reserve, preserve, and park. The International Dark-Sky Association(IDA) chooses reserve to avoid confusion with park, when using the initialisms "IDSR" (International Dark Sky Reserve) and "IDSP" (International Dark Sky Park). Although the first established dark sky preserves were in Canada there are areas of the UK that have reasonably light pollution free areas of sky. Snowdonia National Park, parts of Nothumberland, Northern Scotland and The Lake District are great places to go stargazing. Red Bull have composes a list - the web site is here but I couldn't manage to add a link so you will need to cut and paste.
The Night Sky
At my previous address, I was fortunate to have an excellent view of the night sky. I loved to go out on cold nights and look ay the myriad visible stars, planets and galaxies.

Stargazer In the smallest hours as icy talons draw the frosted curtain
over saturated lawn,
the  brightness of still moonlight
pulls me into woollens, gloves and sock-filled boots  
to gaze with craning neck
upon my private piece of sky. 

Across vast, infinite blackness, awash with crystal constellations
ringing clearly as a chime, I begin my journey backwards
to the farthest point in time.
Spectral gems set in dark matter
guide me to creation’s mystery.
I see Orion’s belted three
and Betelgeuse’s glow.
Russet red: set to blow,  
bulging with impatience to explode in Supernova,
To give to us a second sun
that we may ponder over.

Jupiter, the juggler, deftly holds four moons aloft.
Ganymede, Calisto,
Europa and fair Io.
Differing shapes and sizes,
shimmering colours, diverse orbits,
Sometimes two are visible,
this evening I spy three.

Now seeking pale blue Venus, I am gripped by searing cold,
numb toes and fumbling fingers,
icy stalactites on my nose.

So back inside with warming cup, I climb the wooden hill,
as iridescent moon
glows gently on my windowsill.
I snuggle in to hibernate
with drapes left open wide.
To sleep,
to dream of heavenly bodies
adrift in endless time. 

Keep warm folks. Thanks for reading. Adele 

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