Dark Skies – General Interest

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    Howard Lawrence

    I am Howard Lawrence and became the acting Coordinator of the BAA Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS) recently. I’ve requested that the subject of Dark Skies be included in the BAA forum. Many thanks to Andy Wilson and Callum Potter for facilitating this.
    Here, we can discussion issues relating to light pollution, satellite swarms and any other man made thing that tends to spoil our enjoyment of the night skies.
    The death of Bob Mizon was a very significant setback to the dark sky cause in this country. He was unique in abilities and commitment. Whereas he was a leader I am more of an administrator. We need new leaders.
    In order to continue his and our work, the CfDS committee is keen to reconnect with the BAA membership, and indeed anyone with an interest in preserving our planet and skies. Dark skies is a very interesting topic encompassing science, technology, politics, philosophy, human welfare and nature. I hope that we will use this forum to develop new ideas, collaborations and friendship.

    Denis Buczynski

    Hi Howard, welcome to your new role as acting coordinator for the Campaign for Dark Skies. I was in communication with Bob Mizon just prior to his death and we had agreed to offer a certificate to Northern Lighthouse Board Inverness for the work they had one in limiting the effect of the lighthouse on the penninsula that the Tarbatness Lighthouse sits. Do you have access to Bob’s email’s regarding this matter. I did leave a detailed message on the CfDS message page a few weeks ago and have not had a reply to date.
    Best wishes
    Denis Buczynski

    Howard Lawrence

    Hello Denis and thanks for your welcome. Picking up the pieces following Bob’s sudden death has been difficult and one problem is that the time I’ve available is much less than Bob devoted. So tasks like going through his computer files, finding contacts and boxes of archives has had to wait its turn. I do not have direct access to his emails though I can request his widow, Pam, to have a look. Another problem we have is that the contacts message system currently in use is very hit and miss. I’ve looked back at them and cannot spot any message from you. Could you please forward any correspondence on this to baacfds@outlook.com ? This is the email address we are now trying to use for all official CfDS matters since (in theory) other committee members can access it if I am incapacitated.
    I have little experience of the CfDS awards system (though I co-presented once). If Bob couldn’t present the award in person he had an extensive network of contacts throughout the UK to ask to present the award locally. I shall have to find some blank “good lighting awards” or the file to print. Is there a particular time / opportunity to present the award that you are aiming for? As to who should sign them, that is another question. Since my title is acting I feel that awards signatures should come with more prestige. I will ask David Arditti if he is prepared to take over this responsibility.

    Howard Lawrence

    A sudden death with no succession plans is highly disruptive to any organisation. The CfDS has a particular problem in that we’ve yet to identify many of Bob Mizon’s dark skies related contacts, including those who were local representatives/ officers and those who received the newsletter that Bob produced. So the CfDS committee would very much like to hear from BAA members who have previously helped or currently have in interest in the Dark Sky campaign. Please would you email baacfds@outlook.com and tell us what your involvement is, was or would like to be?

    Howard Lawrence

    BAA members may be interested in the work of the U.K. Dark Sky Partnership (UKDSP). This is an informal organisation at the moment and has been going for about two years. Bob Mizon was an early supporter and enthusiastic about its potential for a united approach to working with parliament. The CfDS believes this organisation is currently the best opportunity to achieving better planning and other legislation aimed at reducing light pollution. It represents many people in professional, voluntary and local communities, so is not quite as easy to ignore as a group of amateur astronomers. BAA CfDS has contributed to funding and organisation, including the participation of the UKDSP in the Local Government Association exhibition event in July.
    Please have a look at its website https://ukdarkskies.org.uk

    Dr Paul Leyland

    A small point, but on that website the link https://britastro.org/node/12028 is not active. It is correct but I had to copy and paste it into a browser.

    Do you have contacts at the organization which may be able to activate the link? It seems a shame to make life harder for interested parties and to reduce the visibility of the BAA.

    Richard Miles

    Paul, That ‘node/12028’ link took me to: ‘https://britastro.org/2018/finding-the-way-part-1’. Is their a typo in your last note of October 10?

    Dr Paul Leyland

    Richard: I have just checked again. In the text which follows I have replace square brackets with curly brackets and put a space each side of the : characters. This is to defeat any attempt by the forum software here to make my text into hyperlinks.

    If one goes to the end of the page https://ukdarkskies.org.uk/dark-sky-places then down at the bottom one finds:

    Planispheres (https : //britastro.org/node/12028) have rotating discs that allow you to set the date against the time and display the current night sky. See also https : //www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM8fH_NmtU4

    The Youtube link is active and is clickable. The one intended to reach britastro is not clickable, for me anyway. I am using the Firefox browser.

    If one examines the HTML source, the clickable version reads

    {a href=”https : //www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM8fH_NmtU4″}https : //www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM8fH_NmtU4{/a}

    but the other only

    Planispheres (https : //britastro.org/node/12028)

    There should be {a} {/{a} tags wrapped around the latter.

    • This reply was modified 8 months, 1 week ago by Dr Paul Leyland. Reason: Fix spelling of HTML
    Callum Potter

    I think this link would be to the old BAA shop where we sold Philips planispheres – but we don’t sell these online any more.

    Because there is no target in the new site, it ends up at some random place.

    Just needs the text updating on the UKDSP site.


    Howard Lawrence

    Another of the recent groups on the UK anti-light pollution scene is DarkSky UK. This group is the U.K. chapter of Dark Skies International (DSI), which is the new name of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). It is always difficult to rebrand an organisation and I suspect that we will continue to refer to it as the IDA for a long while.
    Three or four CfDS committee members are also in DSI, including myself. CfDS and DSI/ IDA have a long history of collaboration and friendship going back decades. There are several advantages to this international network for furthering dark skies campaigns such as size, resources, experience and membership structure. Their Slack forums, training sessions and on-line meetings are a great way of engaging with and inspiring supporters. One downside is that it costs a fixed donation to be a member. But that is more or less inevitable in an effective campaigning charity with paid staff and fixed organisational costs. The U.K. branch of DSI can be found at https://darksky.uk .
    The parent international organisation can be found at https://darksky.org .

    Howard Lawrence

    A book by Tim Marshall called ‘The Future of Geography’ uses the word astropolitics to describe the topic of humans in space. We need to engage in this new political debate. For example, are people happy with the idea that the Moon and other astronomical bodies could become despoiled? Did they vote for it?
    Scientific exploration is different from space exploitation. Anyone want to start an astropolitical protest movement, perhaps call it the ‘Campaign for Space Preservation’?

    David Arditti

    It’s an interesting subject. There is a Moon Treaty to which the UK is a signatory, but it is a product of Cold War thinking, in that only bans nation states from claiming ownership of the Moon or parts of it, it does not prevent businesses based in those states from exploiting the Moon. How can you exploit something you do not own? It is a situation analogous to that with the deep oceans, which are not owned by states, but can be exploited. However there is an international mechanism to regulate that (not without controversy). There is no mechanism at all for the Moon.

    This is all a rather different subject to light pollution, however, which is a fairly local issue, within the remit of national and local governments to deal with, if they care.

    Incidentally, I don’t think it is a good idea to have a thread in the forum called ‘General’. Threads should be specific to the topics they are concerned with. What you have tried to do here is create a thread for what should be a forum sub-category. I don’t know if we actually can have sub-categories in this forum though.

    Dr Paul Leyland

    I take partial issue with your observation about light pollution being a local problem, for local people. (I note your “fairly” qualification, hence only a partial issue.)

    Satellite constellations are a global light pollution issue. Especially if you interpret “light” as “electromagnetic radiation”. The radio astronomers are rather dischuffed as well as those who attempt to observe in the optical.

    Totally agree about the (mis)use of “general” in this context. Perhaps sub-fora may be a good idea.

    Howard Lawrence

    If you want to find dark skies here are some websites that may help you https://www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk , https://gostargazing.co.uk and for the overseas traveler http://spacetourismguide.com .

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