If you’ve ever set up a telescope in your backyard, you’ve probably learned how quickly any kind of lighting can ruin your observation. In fact, a recent study found that each year, about 10% of the stars that were visible the previous year disappear in a mix of light scattered through the atmosphere. A company called StealthTransit has the solution: Flash the lights in a controlled manner. They have video animation Explain the concept.
The technology, called DarkSkyProtector, assumes the presence of LED lighting and that the light’s owner (or manufacturer) will place a simple device in the line that causes the LED to flash imperceptibly. As you might imagine, a telescope – some giant observatory – is supposed to use a GPS receiver to sync and then only take pictures when all the LEDs go off. This assumes, of course, that you have a large number of lights under control.
It is difficult to imagine that every city and home has safe lighting for astronomy. However, we can imagine a university installing a lighting system on its campus to protect nighttime viewing. The system was tested in the Caucasus Mountains using a 24-inch telescope, and appears to have been quite successful at a shutter rate of about 150 Hz. We weren’t clear whether each LED controller had to have a GPS-controlled time source, but it looks like you will have to. However, the post talks about the bulbs not costing any more to manufacture than traditional bulbs, so they probably don’t have anything fancy about them.
You can see satellites during the day using a few technical tricks. Want to check out the observatories? Hit the road. Or get time on the telescope with Skynet University.
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