Starry Nights 2016: March 30 to April 2

Wed, 30 Mar 2016 7:00 PM - Sat, 2 Apr 2016 10:00 PM

We do not see the night sky here in the Valley the way that our predecessors just 50 years ago would have seen it. The Milky Way, our home Galaxy that once shined brilliantly overhead against the black of night, has almost disappeared completely from our sky. It is estimated that ~90% of Americans now live in areas where they no longer see the Milky Way. This issue of light pollution, however, is so much more than just the disappearing stars.  Starry Nights is a week-long series of events designed to raise awareness about light pollution, its many attendant consequences, and the steps we can take to end it in our community right now. 

Light pollution — the overuse and misuse of artificial light at night — wastes money, wastes energy, endangers our physical, mental, and spiritual health, takes a tremendous environmental toll, and erases the stars from our skies. Worst of all, we have bought into the idea that more light makes us safe. Smarter use of light makes us safe, saves cities/universities/homeowners money, is better for our health and our environment. We can have responsible lighting that ensures our safety and security without polluting our nights.

The first step in reducing light pollution is awareness. “If you’re under 50 years old, you’ve grown up surrounded by artificial light and you may not know anything different,” JMU's Dr. Paul Bogard says. “Once you begin to see light pollution, you see it everywhere, and you can think about how to control it.” Many fixes are simple, like turning off lights when they’re not being used, installing motion sensors and shielding the light so that it is directed downward onto the ground, where it’s needed.

In the Valley, we are at a crossroads. "Our light fixtures are antiquated and need to be replaced. With our next moves, we have a tremendous opportunity to be a positive example to the rest of the state and the nation," notes JMU Planetarium Director Shanil Virani. Now is the right time to learn more about how we can light our universities and cities thoughtfully.

JMU's Shanil Virani and English professor Dr. Paul Bogard, author of the critically-acclaimed book “The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light”, created a week-long series of events called Starry Nights that will take place March 30 to April 2. Events will take place at JMU, at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, and at JMU's Astronomy Park. Visit the Starry Nights webpage to learn more about each of the events.

We’ve taken what was one of the most common human experiences,
which is walking out at night and seeing the universe,
and we’ve made it one of the most rare human experiences.
Co-Creator of Starry Nights

Starry Nights 2016 #JMU2025

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