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 our annual event 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.
— 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 John C. Wells Planetarium Director 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”, co-creators of Starry Nights,
for events this year that will take place on Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22.