Sunday, 20 May 2012

Switch off your lights! (And a free lunar calendar!)



No, this is not a boring blogpost telling you about the energy and cost saving benefits of switching off your lights!  I'm sure none of you need reminding about that.

If you check your calendars, today, Sunday 20 May, is not only my Dad's birthday (Happy Birthday Dad!), but it is also a New Moon. Your calendar should show tonight's moon as a black circle; it's that darkest of nights where the moon's disc has 0% illumination.

If Everyday Life On A Shoestring had a list of our top 10 simple pleasures, looking at the night sky would be fairly high on that list.  Of course we don't do it enough, especially at this time of year when the nights are light and midsummer will soon be upon us.  And we know shamefully little about the constellations.  But we still relish that feeling of being a very little part of a much bigger picture.

In keeping with the current lunar cycle, today's episode of BBC Radio 4's Something Understood (my new best radio series!), which can be heard at 11.30 tonight on Radio 4 or on BBC iplayer for another 7 days from today, is a celebration of the power of darkness.  As well as featuring poetry and music inspired by the darkness, the progamme considers the transformative nature of darkness and the sense of the eternal it gives us - of 'being small in the face of the infinite'. The programme also looks at the issue of light pollution which is a growing problem in industrial societies.  As well as making life hard for astronomers, light pollution impacts on the environment, wildlife and health and Marek Kukula, the Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, suggests that we need to see the night sky as a living natural resource just like forests and lakes.  

As Bart Simpson says, "Springfield!  Turn off your lights!  Nobody likes sickly orange barf glow!"  So tonight at least, I, too, urge you to switch off your lights for a little while, look to the skies above, and enjoy the darkness.

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For a free lunar calendar 2012, click here.

Check out the British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies.

(Thank you to their image library on Flickr for the image above, looknorth-spain) 

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