Theft of the Night

By Bob Mizon

For three million years, the human race has been able to look skywards on clear nights, and wonder at the starry vault, crossed by the Milky Way (our own galaxy seen from inside), the slowly moving planets and the occasional flash of a meteor ploughing through the atmosphere high above. These sights have been, since about 1950, gradually taken away from us by the baleful glow of wasted light, escaping from poorly aimed and often over-bright artificial lamps, to be scattered by airborne particles and aerosols. Over great cities, towns and even small villages, light pollution robs us, in the last millisecond of its journey, of light which may have travelled for hundreds, thousands or even millions of years to reach our planet.

There is a trend nowadays for road lighting to be better directed, not least because of the efforts of concerned bodies of astronomers such as the International Dark Sky Association and the British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies. But most private lighting is not designed to restrict emissions to the premises to be lit, causing light trespass and nuisance to many non-astronomers, too. The fact that light is not legally considered a pollutant like noise and smoke means that victims of light pollution have little redress, and the stars have no protection in law. Here is a modern irony: spacecraft and telescope technology can deliver breathtaking views of the near and far universe, while the technology which lights our nights simultaneously draws a veil across the night sky.

Are we cutting ourselves off from the direct experience of the rest of the universe

Bob Mizon is the co-ordinator for the Campaign for Dark Skies (CfDS). He also runs the Mizar Travelling Planetarium and is a translator of Astronomical and Meteorological text from French to English.. The CfDS web site can be accessed at

Aims of the Campaign for Dark Skies

CfDS believes that:

CfDS points out that: