4TH MAGNITUDE ----------- John Pazmino Amateur Astronomers Association 1994 October 15
[ABSTRACTS PRESENTED AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AAVSO, OCTOBER 15, 1994, CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS]
The normal clear-sky transparency in the City of New York deepened to 4th magnitude as of 1 July 1994; the prevailing rating until then was 3½ to 4. This darkening of the skies over New York City is the result of major campaigns to reduce excessive light emissions into the air. In the 1990s there arose several brand new schemes to further mitigate this emission. These can be divided into three main categories; renovation of building frontages and facades; rebuilding of mass transit services; and replacement of street lighting. While the second mechanism is peculiar to New York City, the other two can be implemented, at a suitable scale, in most other towns. Renovation of buildings is a continuing project driven by the need to improve and modernize the structures for new generations of tenants and visitors. In this process, obsolete and wasteful lighting is torn out and its emissions are permanently removed from the sky. With the pace and scale of rebuilding in the New York City -- it "builds" the equivalent of an entire Boston every decade -- the decrease in light emissions is rather noticeable over the years. This program is often combined with general beautification of the streetscape. In 1990, New York City began the immense work of simply pulling out the old cobraheads and other obnoxious steetlights and setting down star-friendly ones. This started in several areas, such as Grand Central and Ladies Mile, and is spreading steadily over the entire City. As of the fall 1994 meeting, major swaths of the City are bathed in this new illumination. The magnitude of this work boggles astronomers who visit the New York City! There are now more star-friendly streetlights in New York City than in any other town in the country, and the work continues. Remaking the transit system is not a mainstream mechanism for improving the astronomer's lot. In fact, it is actually one of the most potent weapons there is, because the transit system pulls people from their light-spewing, sky-graying automobiles. Providing car drivers with reliable, quick, attractive, clean transport induces them to leave their star-killing cars home. Projects currently underway include the total rehabilitation of the LIRR wing of Penn Station, groundbreaking on the New Penn Station and facelifts on certain subway stations. Although this method of light abatemant is not directly applicable elsewhere, it has been underway in New York City since 1990, and is the country's largest- ever civilian public works project. The reduction of excessive light emissions in New York continues and will enlarge as the century closes. Can it be many years until we see the Milky Way from Central Park?