Highland Road Park Observatory


an effort of the Baton Rouge Astronomical Society

What is the 20/20 Vision Campaign?

It is an effort to darken the skies over the grounds of the Highland Road Park Observatory, located at 13800 Highland Road in East Baton Rouge Parish, by eradicating nearby light pollution.

How can we measure the darkness of the skies above HRPO?

The quickest way is to compare the views of several trained skygazers periodically to note the disappearance or reappearance of fainter stars. The more exact way is the utilized a Sky Quality Meter, which assigns a numerical value the darkness of a sky. B.R.A.S. owns one of these SQMs.

What is HRPO’s current SQM rating?

HRPO’s current rating ~18.7; this has not changed appreciably from the 2014 measurements. That number indicates degraded views of galaxies and nebulae through HRPO’s scopes, most of which are taxpayer-funded. It also means that it is almost impossible to see our own Milky Way Galaxy from HRPO.

What is B.R.A.S.’ goal?

B.R.A.S. wants to raise the SQM rating of HRPO to 20.0 by the facility’s twentieth anniversary in November 2017. This would increase the contrast of dimmer celestial objects, and afford views of the Milky Way at least part of the time.

Why is darkening the sky important?

HRPO’s partners need a dark sky for their astronomical observatory to function properly. BREC (East Baton Rouge Parish’s park system) sponsors public viewing nights; a dark sky would enhance visiting taxpayers’ views of deep-sky objects. LSU trains physics students in astro-imaging using HRPO equipment; a darker sky would increase the number of targets available to the students. B.R.A.S. uses HRPO for recreational viewing, asteroid and comet work and to gather observations for Astronomical League certificates; a darker sky would lessen the difficulty of obtaining those certificates.

Are there are other reasons to eradicate light pollution?

Light pollution hinders the nocturnal behaviors of animals, which often leads to increased populations of some creatures and destruction of citizens’ garbage containers and gardens. Preliminary evidence suggests overexposure to uncontrolled lighting depresses good health. Light pollution costs local municipalities large sums of money annually.

What is the main cause of light pollution around HRPO?

Currently B.R.A.S. considers poorly-capped and aimed streetlamps to be the main source of wasted light and energy, and of turning a naturally black sky to a dull gray. Streetlamps without proper capping often sending glare into drivers’ eyes. Secondary light pollution comes from inefficient business lighting, sports lighting and outdoor home lighting. Most of this lighting can be switched to full-cut-off lighting.

What is full-cut-off (or FCO) lighting?

The term refers to outdoor lighting fixtures that allow lighting onto intended target locations only—not up into the sky illuminating dust.

What can I do to help?

There are several ways to assist…
*Ask your Public Works Department to cap streetlamps near your home.
*Take part in GLOBE at Night, a citizen science that allows gauging the harshness of light pollution near one’s home (with or without an SQM).
*Thank local businesses who use full-cut-off lighting.
*Ask those businesses who don’t use FCO lighting to switch.
*Shield your porch light and security lights so they only illuminate your personal property.
*Join B.R.A.S.!

Anything else?

Some other important points…
*Nighttime lighting should be only where it needs to be, only as strong as it needs to be.
*An unhindered view of the night sky is a birthright, not a privilege.

How can I learn more?

Visit the page hyperlinked through the title above. Also, take part in at least one Light Pollution Committee meeting.

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Updated by Frederick J. Barnett on Thursday, January 21, 2016, 10:46 AM.