AAS 202nd Meeting, May 2003
Session 10 Astronomy Education: Middle School to College
Poster, Monday, May 26, 2003, 9:20am-6:30pm, West Exhibit Hall

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[10.14] Teaching a College Course on Light Pollution

R.E. Stencel (U. Denver Observatories)

Most introductory astronomy classes mention light pollution as a problem for observers of the night sky. Cursory coverage leaves students with an acquaintance of the problem, but they are rarely taught to recognize and deal with the practical aspects of energy waste, glare, trespass and choice of alternative lighting fixtures. Recently, I ran a 10 week Honors seminar at the University of Denver entitled “Environmental and Social Consequences of Artificial Light” during winter term, 2003, which attracted a variety of arts, humanities and business majors. The course was facilitated greatly by the suite of online materials available at the International Darksky Association [IDA] website [www.darksky.org/resources/library.html], including the Lighting Code Handbook plus access to international, national and local lighting regulations and legislation. The students were assigned to review and summarize self-selected items by state, and present written summaries for in-class discussion purposes. We also had a guest lecture by a local IDA activist, Nancy Clanton, and considered involving other speakers from local CPTED and Planning departments. Slide mounted transparent diffraction gratings were distributed to help students observe spectra from different types of lights at night. After the students learned what the problems are, and the basic remedies, student-driven inquiry lead to a number of fascinating questions that I hope will help them to remain aware and active in this arena. Details are posted at my website [www.du.edu/~rstencel] but some of the key points include: (1) To whom does the night sky belong? Are economic interests sufficient to justify invasion of one’s dark space? (2) Do we accept disruption of our circadian rhythms in the name of ‘progress’, even if research now suggests linkage between melatonin problems and excessive levels of artificial lighting at night? (3) Does the loss of access to viewing the Milky Way pose risks to the imagination of younger generations? (4) Just because lighting is amenable to engineering solutions, does it merit attention in comparison with other pressing problems of our time? In my opinion, the recent flurry of better lighting regulation is not enough, and dark skies will continue to be degraded, if we cannot convince our younger citizens of the need for vigilance and activism on this issue. Please contact the author for any assistance needed in starting, or experiences related to, similar classes. My thanks to the estate of William Herschel Womble, IDA and Ms. Clanton, for support that made this class possible.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to www.du.edu/~rstencel. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: rstencel@du.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #3
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.