I drove 20 miles round-trip early Saturday morning to view
Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) for the first time. It is beautiful!
Easily visible to the unaided eye and spectacular in binoculars.
And now, in the more convenient evening sky!
I had to trespass onto private land (as I often do) because we
are not allowed to be in any of our state parks here in
Wisconsin during the hours of 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. (unless
you are a paid camper at a campsite).
One of my motivations for living in a dark-sky community is
having a great view of a comet like C/2020 F3 literally right
outside my door night after night. The same goes for watching
meteors. The visibility of comets and meteors are severely
impacted by light pollution—both the general urban skyglow but
also nearby lights. Along with just about every other aspect of
All my adult life I have spent significant time and energy
educating (and becoming educated myself) about light pollution,
environmentally-friendly lighting, and, of course, astronomy.
There have been small victories, yes, but overall I feel my
contributions have been a drop in the proverbial bucket.
Living in a “regular community” (as I have all my life), there
is always the trepidation with every new neighbor or lighting
technology change that your view of the night sky will be
degraded even further than it already has, and there is not a
darned thing you can do about it if the perpetrator (be it a
neighbor or the city) chooses to marginalize you and your
kindly-presented concerns. Heck, this can even be a problem
living in a rural area. When I had my Outdoor Lighting
Associates, Inc. business in Iowa from 1994-2005, I can’t count
the many times I got a call from a distressed rural resident
that had a new neighbor who decided to light up their place like
Sure, a lighting ordinance would help a lot, but in most cities
and towns these days they’ll look at you like you’re from Mars
if you try to make enacting one a priority.
There are many advantages to living in a small community, but
where I live now (population 4,700) there is no community will
nor interest in reigning in bad lighting or in protecting the
night sky. However, in 1999 I was deeply involved with writing a
lighting ordinance and getting it approved in Ames, Iowa, a
university town of 50,000 (at the time). Being a well-educated
university town had a lot to do with our success there. Those
were kinder, gentler times then, too.