News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Keep dark skies dark

Several recent articles and letters to the editor in The Nugget Newspaper have highlighted the problems of light pollution in Sisters. One article by Jim Cornelius was about the proper shielding of lighting on houses, and a letter from Signe L. Johnson told about the brightening light dome over Sisters and surrounding cities which is causing the night sky to become much brighter.

According to the astronomers at the Pine Mountain Observatory, which is located 26 miles east of Bend, the light from the light dome over Bend is preventing them from making observations of extremely faint objects that they want to study.

Unfortunately, the City of Sisters is doing nothing to prevent this problem from growing worse.

The City says that they work with contractors who are building new houses in the city limits to make sure that the exterior lighting on these houses are properly shielded to comply with dark-sky regulations. This is not happening.

Last year, I walked around my neighborhood looking at four new houses that were being built. None of the houses had exterior lighting that complied with dark-sky standards. On three of the houses there was no shielding on the exterior lights at all. On the fourth house, the shielding did not cover the bulbs completely. Obviously the City is not ensuring that new houses have exterior lighting that complies with dark-sky standards like they said they were doing.

Even worse, some of houses in this neighborhood keep their exterior lights on 24/7. They never turn them off.

Several of us from the Sisters Astronomy Club and the International Dark Sky Association met with city officials last year, including the Sisters city mayor, about this problem.

I had taken pictures of the houses mentioned above and tried to show them to the Mayor. He refused to look at them and didn’t want to even talk about them!

SPRD has awarded a $1,000 grant to SAC (Sisters Astronomy Club, an SPRD committee) for the purchase and expenses related to the use of three Sky Quality Meters. These meters record the brightness of the night sky. I will be putting one at my house on East Cascade Avenue. These instruments will join ones at Sisters High School and Rimrock Ranch and a network of locations around Oregon in a program to monitor sky darkness to help identify sources of light pollution and monitor progress in reducing the problem.

I urge city officials to start taking this issue seriously. By working together to reduce light pollution, Sisters can create a safer and healthier environment for its citizenry while still maintaining dark skies.

Exposure to artificial light at night can harm your health.

Humans evolved to the rhythms of the natural light-dark cycle of day and night. The spread of artificial lighting means most of us no longer experience truly dark nights.

Research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.

 

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