Astronomy Group Asks City For Pollution-Free Lights

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A local astronomy group is concerned about an Athens committee's proposal to add additional lighting around the city.

Earlier this fall, the Athens Joint Police Advisory Committee took a safety tour of Athens and proposed some lighting improvements for the city to consider.

The Athens Deputy Service Safety Director Ron Lucas said the committee listed the areas of concern.

"I think that we do need to add some lights in some of those darker – particularly the stair areas that we looked at between Grovesner and Fort and also the end of North Congress I thought was pretty dark," said Lucas.

The Southeast Ohio Astronomical Society is asking the city to consider a range of lighting fixtures that do not produce light pollution.

The society says America has an abundance of light pollution, and they don't want that to be the case in Athens.

Tom O'Grady, a member of the society and an Ohio University professor of physics and astronomy, explained that light shines into the sky and can be seen from space when street lamps do not have a cover on top. 

He said the City of Athens is starting to appear on light maps viewed from space.

"The night sky has inspired art and architecture, poetry, prose, music, throughout the ages and it's getting to the point where the average citizen rarely ever sees the night sky, and the vast majority of people have never seen the Milky Way stretch from horizon to horizon," said O'Grady.

O'Grady said the group understands the need for safety lights, especially when it comes to areas used by OU students, but wants the city to consider ones that don't pollute and save energy.

"With thoughtful and proper lighting fixtures, proper locations of these fixtures and a thoughtful amount of them, you could get increased amount of safety and security, which is what people are looking for at night, as well as information and at the same time save money, save energy and move in a direction that's more sustainable," said O'Grady.

Lucas said when the Richland Round-a-bout was constructed the city decided to go with LED lights to save energy but at first it didn't save money.

"From a long term stand point it pays itself off over a number of years but the initial cost of something like LED lighting, that is pointed downward, is more expensive," said Lucas.

O'Grady understands that changing all of the existing lights in the city would not be cost effective but he said the Society is looking for compromise when the city begins to update and replace lighting.

According to Lucas, the city will be working to have conversations with the astronomical society before final plans are set in place.