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October 2002

Delve deeper into hot topics featured in NGM’s October Geographica and Who Knew? with help from Resources. Click on a link, pick up a periodical, browse through a book, and explore!
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Skywatching

Dark Victory

The night skies over central Europe just got a little darker. The Czech Republic has become the first country in the world to enact a national law against light pollution.

A growing problem worldwide, light pollution is caused by bright nighttime lighting that disperses beyond the area intended. In cities, lights that project upward can obscure the stars and planets, a problem for astronomers. But stargazers aren’t the only ones affected. Glare caused by poorly designed light fixtures also degrades visibility for drivers and pedestrians.

The Czech law requires modification of such fixtures. Jenik Hollan, an astronomer at the Nicolaus Copernicus observatory in Brno, has already noticed improvement on the streets, if not yet in the skies. “Everything is much more visible, with reduced glare,” he says. Still, full compliance with the law may take a while. As Hollan notes, “There are 40,000 streetlamps in Brno alone.”

— Margaret G. Zackowitz

Web Links

International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)
www.darksky.org/
Keep updated on the IDA’s latest efforts to “preserve and protect the nighttime environment” by combating light pollution.

Dark Sky and Quality Outdoor Lighting in the Czech Republic
www.astro.cz/darksky/
Choose from links with information on light pollution and effective outdoor lighting and read excerpts from the Czech Act on Protection of the Air, including light pollution prevention.
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Bibliography


Muir, Hazel. “Blinded by the Light,” New Scientist (August 18, 2001), 18.

Thessin, Rachel, and David L. Crawford. “Your Home Lighting Guide,” Sky and Telescope (April 2002), 40-47.


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