Light Pollution Mapping Project
Light Pollution Map of Oman
Light pollution has been known to cause so much disruption to astronomers, from making it hard to see faint objects, to washing out all the contrast during an imaging session. But there is another worse side to light pollution. Light pollution is harmful and disruptive to the ecosystem. For example, it causes newly hatched turtles to get disoriented and lost while looking for the direction of the sea. It has been shown to affect migrating birds and to disrupt human sleep cycles. Disruption in human sleep cycles has been linked to diabetes and weight gain. Furthermore, a lot of light pollution is simply wasted energy, we are using electricity to light up the night sky when what we need to illuminate is on the ground. In the United States of America, it has been shown statistically that there is no improvement in crime rates in areas with streetlights vs. areas that did not have streetlights. With the rising cost of electrical bills, the excess street lighting has been causing a heavy financial burden on the government. The Batinah expressway, which is a major highway with no street lighting except at dangerous junctions and there has been no increase in road traffic accidents proving that a well-designed road does not need street lighting to improve nighttime driving safety.
Why not use satellite data?
Lately people many astronomers have resorted to using satellite data for finding dark sky locations. We have noticed a few problems with using this data for astronomical purposes.
- The data on the most popular websites used for astronomy to find dark skies is up to 7 years old for here in Oman. Cities grow and lights pollution expands.
- The light pollution scale is logarithmic, that means a difference of 0.15 in darkness is actually a significant difference, we have noted some differences between our readings and the satellite readings.
- By taking readings ourselves, we have become more actively involved in the hobby and have learned to better judge the quality of the sky with our eyes as well as getting a better understanding of the impact of light pollution.
This project is not yet officially launched, as we are working on how to best collect the most accurate data and how to manage submission for the data. The current process we have come up with is to take readings on the ground using Sky Quality Meter device. We initially considered visual assessment but decided that it will be inconsistent due to individuals’ skill and eyesight. The method we are considering taking on as a standardized method of taking light pollution readings is as follows:
- Actual Sky Quality Meter device to be used. The iPhone software variant doesn’t work well with current iPhones and gives unreliable readings
- The readings are taken either on a moonless night, before moonrise or after moon set
- Readings to be taken at least 1 hour after sunset
- Pointing up at zenith and away from direct sources of light such as lamp posts or houses
- Readings to include coordinates in standardized format, time and date of reading
- Readings will only be accepted by people who have undergone a simple training session we will provide online in order to guarantee data quality
- A standardized form will be available for those who complete training to submit their measurements
- The map will be updated once every month.