Get Involved

All students of astronomy, whether professional or amateur, enrolled student or educator, should be concerned about protecting dark and quiet skies. Astronomy, especially ground based optical and radio astronomy, is facing existential challenges that need to be addressed with some urgency. Some of these challenges go far beyond our particular field of astronomy – these are issues that everyone should be aware of, and in some cases, work towards mitigating.

For Students

There are many ways a student can contribute towards protecting our night skies. Begin with learning about the importance and urgency of the various issues involved: Light Pollution caused by terrestrial sources of Artificial Light at Night (ALAN), contamination of the space environment, radio frequency interference, satellite megaconstellations, and the increase in traffic to our Moon and cislunar space. You do not have to be involved in all of these issues: depending on your liking, you can choose to focus on one or two issues mentioned above.

On the students page, you will find resources that will introduce you to the topics at hand that will help you get started on the scientific aspects of the impact of recent technological advances on dark & quiet skies. You will also find information on ways to get involved in public policy that governs, for example, outdoor lighting practices or space-policy.

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For Educators

Educators are at the forefront of training future leaders in our field, and have a special role to play in protecting dark and quiet skies. Apart from imparting technical skills and knowledge to their students, educators also inspire students by challenging them to address overarching issues that go beyond the classroom or their particular field of study. Most astronomy educators (formal or informal) have memories and experiences related to spending nights in absolutely gorgeous dark skies, usually at an Observatory or on a visit to a remote park. The challenge is to convince others, who may not appreciate and value dark skies or view natural nighttime darkness as a valuable natural resource worth protecting. You, as an educator, can help inform future leaders, decision and policy makers, urban planners, lighting engineers, and voters to bring awareness and action to protect the natural nighttime environment. On the Educators webpage, you will find resources that can help you include topics related to dark and quiet skies into your curriculum and/or informal events, how to educate and inspire children and students to care about the night sky, and so on. You can start your own ‘dark sky group’ or include dark & quiet skies activities and topics into existing programs such as campus nightwalks, star parties, and so on.


For The Media

Astronomers are among the first to notice the rapid change in our night time environment due to the proliferation of cheap and efficient LED lights on the one hand, and the increasingly crowded space environment due to the advent of private companies with access to enhanced space-launch capabilities/capacities. The media has an important role to play in raising  awareness, facilitating conversation and raising the profile of these issues. COMPASSE strives to provide accurate and timely information to benefit all of the Committee’s stakeholders and the public at large. We are happy to respond to enquiries from the credentialed media and make COMPASSE members available for informational briefings, interviews, radio and television appearances, podcast tapings, and other media requests. On the Media webpage, you will find ways to contact COMPASSE members with specific expertise to answer questions to members of the media. You will also find links to fact sheets, media releases, and other documents that will help the media better understand these issues.

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For Policy Makers

Astronomy has revolutionized the way we think about our universe and our place within it. As our society changes, so too does the way we interact with our night sky and broader universe. Our skies belong to everyone, and of course we must share it. However, current and future astronomical observatories depend upon dark and quiet skies for their science. We must consider and mitigate the negative effects our advancing technology will have on astronomy.

For Professional Astronomers

Most professional astronomers are well aware of the threat posed to the night sky by terrestrial light pollution and satellite megaconstellations. Astronomical observatories have moved to increasingly remote locations on our planet in order to avoid the skyglow from towns and cities. But with the advent of satellite megaconstellations, even these remote locations have been compromised, resulting in an existential threat to ground based optical and radio astronomy. 

 

COMPASSE believes that all professional astronomers should contribute towards protecting our profession from these threats. On the “For Professional Astronomers” page you will find resources that will enable you to be an effective advocate for dark and quiet skies. In particular, you will find  links to several web pages that illustrate the nature and extent of the problem, and effective ways to communicate this to the general public. You will also find tips and resources to advocate for better lighting to reduce light pollution, and resources to undermine the rationale for the need for internet services from satellite megaconstellations.

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Campus SHINE Program

Light pollution lends itself to astronomy education contexts – such as Astronomy 101 courses and star parties – because more than 200,000 students take intro astronomy classes each year in the US, and because skyglow disrupts the ability to view stars and the Milky Way.  However, the consequences of light pollution extend beyond astronomy.  College campuses are well equipped to address a pervasive problem like light pollution due to higher education’s increasing interest in interdisciplinary, service-learning,  and research-experience-based education.  Furthermore, astronomers working in university contexts have easy access to expertise across several disciplines and potential funding opportunities to foster campus research and policy collaborations. 


Campus SHINE (Safe and Healthy Illumination of the Nighttime Environment) is a COMPASSE effort to provide participants in higher education with objectives and tools to implement responsible lighting solutions on their campus. On our upcoming Campus SHINE webpage (Fall 2024) you will find resources that can help you build strong coalitions of faculty, staff, and students.  These include outreach activities, course assignments, and course projects. Additionally you will find examples and case studies of successful implementation of responsible lighting and campus lighting management plans.