Local Group Collaborates on Statewide Initiative for Dark Skies


Truman’s efforts to combat light pollution have been making the night sky near campus better for years, and now they are starting to play a similar role throughout the state.

Under the direction of Vayujeet Gokhale, associate professor of physics, a group at Truman has been receiving grant money from the NASA-Missouri Space Grant Consortium for the past four years to conduct light pollution research. Part of their work has involved installing sky quality meters at various locations in and around Kirksville.

“Human beings have evolved and grown up with an unadulterated view of the beautiful night sky for millennia,” Gokhale said. “We owe it to ourselves, and to future generations, to be not deprived of this beauty.”

In the summer, it was announced the University would be working with the Missouri Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA Missouri) to deploy the sky quality meters at selected locations throughout the state to measure brightness.

Along with being better able to see the night sky, reducing light pollution has some major benefits. Light pollution disrupts ecological systems as well as sleep cycles in humans. Natural patterns of light determine wildlife behavior in a variety of ways, including predation, reproduction and fatigue, which are drastically altered when subjected to light pollution. Furthermore, light pollution comes at the price of unnecessary energy costs and carbon emissions, impacting both the consumer and the environment.

For the past two years, the Stargazers astronomy club, with assistance from the Environmental Sustainability Fee Committee and the Funds Allotment Council, has been doing its part to help. The club is working with Physical Plant and school administrators to change some of the outdoor fixtures where possible, and in retrofitting some of them with dark sky reflectors. They have also been replacing blue-white outdoor lights, which are more harmful to animal and plant life, with off-white and yellow lights.

Gokhale and the Stargazers students are combating light pollution with a three-point program. They will continue to research the problem through efforts such as the one with IDA Missouri. They are also trying to raise awareness of light pollution and convince authorities to make and implement changes whenever possible.

More information about the IDA Missouri program is available at darkskymissouri.org/programs/sqmprogram.
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