Light Pollution and its Impact

Full Programme in PDF format

The City of Armagh and Armagh Observatory are honoured to be hosting the Ninth European Symposium for the Protection of the Night Sky, an international conference from 17th to 19th September to discuss light pollution and its impact on astronomy and our view of the night sky, and its effect on the natural environment, education, wildlife and public health. The meeting is held each year in a different European city, this year being supported by Ireland’s “Discover Science and Engineering” programme, the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, the Irish Light Pollution Awareness Campaign, and the Northern Ireland Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure through the Armagh Observatory. Held in the Market Place Theatre, Armagh, this international symposium is one of the main pillars of the Observatory’s activities in support of the United Nations International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA 2009). This is a year-long series of activities in every country of the world to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of Galileo’s first use of a telescope in 1609 to make astronomical observations. The programme of lectures, discussion, exhibitions and other activities for the conference is designed to be open and accessible to all and everyone is welcome to attend.

The proceedings in Armagh begin with a light-hearted look at light, "What is Light", by the broadcaster Leo Enright, at 7.30pm on Thursday 17th September. Expect some terrible puns and some spectacular new images of Ireland from outer space. The meeting continues over the following two days with a packed programme of lectures and debate, notably a keynote review by the well-known astronomer and broadcaster, Dr John Mason, and expert talks on topics ranging from “intelligent” streetlighting to the detrimental social and environmental impact of light pollution. For more information, or to register to attend either the conference or the free public lecture, contact the Armagh Observatory or visit the conference web-site: www.lightpollution2009.eu.

The meeting will describe the dramatic impact of light pollution on wildlife such as insects, birds and bats, how it impacts on public health, and how good lighting practice can improve public safety at night and help to mitigate climate change and growing public expenditure on lighting, by avoiding the unnecessary cost of energy production to power lights shining uselessly into space. Reducing light pollution reduces greenhouse gases and helps to reduce our carbon footprint. Concern about light pollution is not just for astronomers. In the words of the Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees, "You don’t need to be an ornithologist to want to be able to see some birds in your garden, and you don’t need to be an astronomer to want to be able to see the stars. The night sky is part of our environment, indeed the only part that has been experienced, equally, by all cultures at all times."

An important part of the meeting is devoted to science education. This will include an innovative pilot cross-border education session organized by Robert Hill (Northern Ireland Space Office, Armagh Planetarium). This involves children from eight schools from as far afield as Dublin, Belfast and Magherafelt. In this session, children will work in teams to explore some of the interdisciplinary and city-planning aspects of light pollution within the new science curriculum using a newly developed "3-D Light Pollution Challenge" computer gaming programme.

Participants at the conference include many of the world’s leading experts on light pollution, including representatives from the Irish Light Pollution Awareness Campaign, the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies, and the International Dark-Sky Association, which this year is celebrating its 21st "coming of age" year since its founding. Coming just weeks after the world’s professional astronomers passed a resolution "Defence of the Night Sky and the Right to Starlight" at their triennial General Assembly in Brazil, in August 2009, the Ninth European Symposium for the Protection of the Night Sky is timely and provides a unique opportunity to learn about light pollution and assist in efforts, locally and farther afield, to reduce the problem and eventually stop it.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: Mark Bailey at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel.: 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174; mebat signarm.ac.uk, or Albert White at the Irish Light Pollution Awareness Campaign (infoat signilpac.eu), or Terry Moseley, PR Officer, Irish Astronomical Association (terrymoselat signaol.com).

See also:
Full Programme - PDF format

Videos from the conference on YouTube

Dark Skies Campaign

Last Revised: 2011 January 4th