Have you ever seen our glorious Milky Way galaxy from a dark sky? If not, you owe it to yourself and especially school age children to see get out and see the Milky Way this evening Oct 6.

Members of the Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society (link...) are having their dark sky Star Party on the Cherohala Skyway. Located at the Unicoi Crest overlook it is first overlook on the left just after you enter North Carolina. As I write, the forecast looks good for observing this evening. Bring a folding chair, extra sweatshirts and coats (yes coats) and arrive just before dark for easier parking. You can get directions from the star party maps page of the Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society web site at: (link...)

You can combine this event with an earlier visit to the Monroe Count Sheriff, Bill Bivens' Country Cook Out.
(link...)

Star Party Etiquette
• Bring a red flashlight and avoid using any white light after dark. SMAS members have red filter material available for purchase at 1 cent per square inch.
• Get to know the lighting controls for your vehicle and ensure as little white light as possible shines from your vehicle. If you cannot control the lights, choose to park as far away from the telescopes as practical.
• Carefully enter the observing location. Speeding into a parking area full of telescopes and observers is a recipe for an accident.
• If you bring bug spray, please choose to apply the spray before arriving or at a distance from telescopes. Sprays can coat the expensive optics and are difficult to remove.
• Our members welcome visitors and enjoy showing off the night sky, however please be considerate and ask. Do not use an unattended scope that does not belong to you without permission.
• Please do not smoke near other member's telescopes

Members of SMAS and an amature telescope.
Members of SMAS and an amateur telescope.

Topics:

Heritage High School

Forrest, what can be done about a blight on the night sky such as Heritage High School? They have their football and baseball lights on so many times late at night when there are no games in evidence. They truly block out the view of the stars. If it is a matter of clean-up, why not clean up in the daytime? Does your group ever send suggestions to businesses or schools as to how they might participate in the clean-up of light blight?

I have also wondered about the cost to the county of running those huge nasty bright lights way up to and past midnight; that must be some ugly power bill. Do they charge that cost back to community teams that use the premises?

Lights on Heritage High School

Dear local_yokel,
Regarding the lights on Heritage High School, it is unfortunate that any school is the source of thoughtless light. Just remember it is not malicious.

Regarding what can be done, we need to raise awareness in the Citizens of Blount County of what that though less light is costing us. When the cost us understood individuals will act.

Regarding acting, the first effort should concentrate on containing the problem by addressing new light fixtures. They all need to be full cutoff, and where possible, on motion sensors. Higher than my tallest ladder can reach, I have floodlights on my home. Though they are under the eaves, they still would not be described as full cutoff as they spray light on to the neighbor’s property. So I do not use them often. I have replaced the switch which controlles them with a 60 minute wind up timer so that, when I do turn them on, they stay on for a maximum of only 60 minuets even if I become forgetful regarding turning them off. If lighting manufacturers and retails like Lowes offered only full cutoff fixtures, then as existing light fixtures fail at the natural end of their useful lifes, they will likely be replaced with full cutoff fixtures. The problem was a long time in the making and the remediation will take some time too.

Call your commissioner now and tell them you support the proposed zoning requirements for full cutoff lighting. I believe the zoning applies to commercial properties.

You can find your commissioner by their web site at:
(link...)
Scroll to the bottom to find your district on the map. Then, give your commissioners a call and ask for protection against the growth of unwanted light.

Forrest Erickson

Taking back the Night

According to MUB, and it's probably the same for AUB: a landowner has every right to point a light of their choosing in any direction they want to, providing they mount it on their own property. So:

  1. Use your Field Glasses to spot which direction the Photocell that turns the offending Light on, points to
  2. Get a 3.5Vdc Helium-Neon (Red ~650nm) less than 5mW Laser
  3. DON'T POINT IT IN ANYONE'S EYES EVER

  4. Get a plug-in 120Vac to 3.5Vdc power convertor
  5. Get an altitude-azimuth mount
  6. Fashion a Bird-House; without sides, front, and back--to keep the rain and wind off of the assembly
  7. Mount it in a proper location, well above 7 ft. high, where its path never gets closer to the ground than 7 ft. high
  8. Plug it in when you want to Star Gaze
  9. Un-Plug it when you're finished, so YOU don't waste power

OR

Convince the owner of the offending light, to turn it off when they're NOT using it. These new Security Lights get 9000 Lumens out of a 100W lamp--they're just plain obscene.

Lighting Ordinances

Botetourt County, VA requires, acc. to:
http://www.volt.org/Botetourt%20Ordinance.html

... All outdoor lighting on residential, commercial, industrial,
municipal, recreational or institutional property shall be aimed, located,
designed, fitted and maintained so as not to present a significant amount
of glare to drivers, pedestrians, or users of neighboring properties.

... If the output of a lamp is greater than 2,000 lumens, it shall be
fully shielded. If the output is less than 2,000 lumens, the lamp shall be
aimed at no greater than 45-degree downward angle (halfway between
straight down and straight to the side).

It'd be nice if our county'd come up with something similar.

Covenants

Some neighborhoods have protective covenants against lights on poles. Surely it would be as simple to include verbiage like "full-cut-off" in such covenants where people didn't want to go so far.

Here are some examples of "good" residential lighting: ((link...))

And potentially good commercial lighting:
((link...))

Perhaps this is an area where preservation can partner with development. Seems more likely than Blount County government doing anything progressive.

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