The Daily Herald writes that island’s light pollution-free night sky may become a niche tourism asset attracting astronomers and people passionate about the wonders of the night dome. Sea and Learn Saba lecturer, astronomer Stephan Martin, ignited interest in the nocturnal skies with his presentation on the link between astronomy and conservation Friday, at Shearwater Resort. On Saturday, “International Observe the Moon Night,” Martin led a group on a field trip to the Ladder Bay gazebo from where they could best observe the skies. He explained the use of the night sky as a star map and how this skill can be used to report on the international study on light pollution. Widely published, Martin holds a Master’s degree from University of Wyoming and recently wrote Cosmic Conversations, an exploration of the connection between science, spirituality and sustainability. Research on infrared studies of dark matter in spiral galaxies and solar eclipses led him on expeditions to Aruba, Romania, Zambia and Australia.
Under the clear night sky at Shearwater, the presentation commenced with mesmerizing images of the Milky Way and an explanation of why Saba is one the premiere places in the world to experience the spectacular wonders of the night sky. Most people in the world live engulfed by ambient artificial light pollution associated with urban development and can no longer experience the night sky. While domes of artificial light from St. Maarten and other neighbouring islands can still be seen in the distance, Saba’s elevation and limited lighting afford it a comparatively pristine night sky.
A masterful storyteller, Martin proceeded to relay, in accessible terms, why the wonders of the night sky play a vital role in our environment and why the sky’s preservation from unnecessary artificial light pollution should be an integral part of nature conservation efforts. “Humans, animals and plants have been shaped by this environment for billions of years and as part of this natural world we need the night’s darkness as we need the day’s sunshine,” he argued. Martin added that “the night sky with its dark matter and dark energy holds answers about our universe and our place in it.” Humanity’s isolation from the natural world through light pollution is affecting multiple aspects of our life but also affecting many other species, birds, insects and plants. Martin provided extensive information on studies of artificial light impacting bird migration, spoke of lighthouses and searchlights impacting nature, as well as on studies of insects using skylight for orientation He spoke of increasing sleep-deprived humans and the impact of daily rhythm disruption, comparing darkness deprivation to top cancer-causing agents such as smoking.
The presentation also offered information on ambient light waste reduction programme, proper fixtures and alternative light bulbs designed to maximise light utility. Martin made an economic plea arguing that artificial light beamed into space is essentially wasted, with improper lighting actually reducing visibility for public safety. He lobbied for a grassroots response that involves lifestyle changes and environmentally sensitized policy marking. The presentation was followed by a special evening hosted by the hotel’s Bistro del Mare restaurant.