Light Pollution 2

Well after reading the House of Commons Science and Technology report on light pollution, I was inspired to do something (however little) about light pollution around the Physics Department in Manchester.

I decided to start with the University as there were some badly angled security lights around campus that were shining at the telescope dome. I managed to talk to a nice guy from Estates and Services who had helped to put the dome on the roof in the first place. I showed him which lights were the worst offenders and he said he would do something about them. Sure enough, by early this week they had been sorted out.

Encouraged by this success I have decided to turn my attention to some very bright flood lights in east Manchester. As far as I can tell they belong to the Longsight railway depot so I got in contact with Network Rail on Wednesday. Unfortunately I got through to a central switchboard and they told me that someone would get back to me about it - I don't hold much hope of anyone getting back to me even though they have an environmental policy that would imply that they might.

Once (if ever) the railway is sorted out, I shall try to see if the City Council can so something about street lights. The most practical solution is that when a street light needs replacing, they use lamps that shine all their light down. One step at a time.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 30th Oct 2003 (22:55 UTC) | Permalink

Solar Storms

Well it seems that sunspot group 486 has produced one of the largest solar flares since 1976. It is ranked as X17.2 on the equivalent of the Solar Richter scale. The SOHO spacecraft - a joint mission between ESA and NASA has some nice images and animations of the event. Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a animation of the ejection of plasma from the surface of the Sun - the Sun is obscured by a disk so that it is possible to see flares and prominences around the edges.

The cornonal mass ejection (CME) sends lots of high energy charged particles out into space. What makes this event interesting is that we are now 2-3 years after sunspot maximum - the Sun has a roughly 11 year cycle of activity. If the Earth happens to be in the path of a flare, the charged particles follow the Earth's magnetic field lines to the poles (North and South) where they can cause aurora and possibly black-outs like the one in Canada in 1989. So if it is clear tonight, and you are at a fairly northern latitude, you might be able to see an impressive display of Northern lights.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 29th Oct 2003 (12:16 UTC) | Permalink


For the past two Thursdays I have been demonstrating the Solar Prominences experiment in first year lab. Amazingly, both weeks have been cloud free (well amazing for Manchester) so they were able to take images of the Sun both weeks. The first week was disappointing because there weren't really any sunspots visible. However, on Thursday we were able to observe one of the largest groups of sunspots seen for years - the first years are supposed to calculate the rotation rate of the Sun from measurements of the position of sunspots over time. Unfotunately their images from this Thursday don't show the sunspot group as they didn't save them properly.

The current large group will probably have moved out of sight by the time the next group start next Thursday so I might go in to the department to take an image tomorrow if the weather improves.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 25th Oct 2003 (23:52 UTC) | Permalink

Light Pollution

I have just been reading the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Seventh Report which focuses on light pollution.

For one of "several thousand in the UK who make a living from astronomy" it makes very interesting reading. Apparently, 40 years ago it was possible to see the Milky Way from Liverpool but now you can only see stars above magnitude 3 (which means you can't see the Milky Way). This is a problem we have to deal with with the undergraduate telescope in Manchester.

The Committee lay into the Governement with comments such as:

"We regret that PPARC and the Government have adopted a defeatist attitude towards light pollution and astronomy in the UK."

... and ...

"The remedies for the different types of light pollution may differ, but light trespass, glare and sky glow are all caused by an unnecessary misuse of light. This confusion is indicative of the Government's disjointed treatment of the problem of light pollution."

Hopefully this will have some inpact on reducing sky glow and allow more people to see the night sky - if only people could see as much as I did in South Africa.

For my part, tomorrow I am going to complain to the University's Estates and Services department about some very bad lighting on the Stopford and Zochonis Buildings. Let's see if they are bothered - if they aren't I shall have to call in the big guns to get something done about it.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 22nd Oct 2003 (23:54 UTC) | Permalink
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