Luckily in Wellington, New Zealand, we can see a fair few stars on any clear night. I don’t spend a lot of time outside observing, but I need only glance up at the sky to see the old familiars: Orion, Scorpio, the Southern Cross, and a bunch of others, along with planets and, quite often, satellites.
About a billion people are just not so lucky:
Light pollution has caused one-fifth of the world’s population — mostly in mainland Europe, Britain and the U.S. — to lose their ability to see the Milky Way in the night sky.
“The arc of the Milky Way seen from a truly dark location is part of our planet’s natural heritage,” said Connie Walker, and astronomer from the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona.
Yet “more than one fifth of the world population, two thirds of the U.S. population and one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way.”
It seems that in the ‘rich’ world we’re busy impoverishing our lives just as fast as we can — destroying the birds, the plants, the animals and the oceans around us, and even leaching the delights from the skies.
Many of us live in profligate affluence and waste, using up the earth’s resources to create stuff that overflows the landfills as trash. And so we also cast off light upwards, into the skies, instead of conserving it, directing it to where it’s needed.
TVNZ even has a bizarre promo that makes me shudder every time it screens. It shows people gathering to shine lights up into the sky, for no apparent reason. Buildings, vehicles and cities are also shining lights upwards.
Still, many of us can still see some stars. As a teenager I’d spend hours outside with a really cheap and nasty telescope, just looking.
Now kids, and adults alike have a chance to buy a really cheap, but really excellent telescope — the Galileoscope:
…we set about to design a new telescope kit from scratch, one that would redefine the small educational telescope and include features usually seen only on commercial instruments costing 10 times more, such as achromatic lenses, aggressive stray-light control, and a 1¼-inch focuser. We believe we’ve succeeded!
The Galileoscope enables kids of all ages to build and observe with a telescope similar to (but much better than) Galileo’s. Sharing these observations with as many people as possible, and encouraging parents, teachers, students, and others to think about their importance, addresses one of the main goals of IYA2009: Promote widespread access to new knowledge and observing experiences.
[Via : Specifications | Galileoscope.org.]
Way back in April I attempted to order a Galileoscope. That came to nothing, but now I’m trying again. Wellingtonians can try via the Wellington Astronomical Society.