I’m frustrated. What’s up with the nighttime skies? The most obvious problem for any of us wanting to see the stars is weather. This is also something that we have little control over. Without getting political, there is no question that the climate has changed. We have fewer clear nights than we have had in the past. It is worse in the last few years than previously, resulting in more canceled nights at the observatory.

Dust and smoke from droughts and fires in the west are an issue but something we don’t have local control over. The Observatory is closed for the Fourth of July and for New Year’s Eve due to local smoke. Humidity is also a contributing factor. The reason professional observatories are built in high and remote deserts is to minimize the amount of atmosphere through which they observe. But this is southeast Texas, and humidity is a constant companion.

One issue for which we do have some control is light pollution. This is something that all of us can do a little to help a lot. We tend to have too many lights, too bright, and often not always necessary. Security and safety are very important. Timers, motion detectors and light sensors are improvements. An easy improvement is to use downward pointing lights - full-cut-off lights. The lights on the outside of the Observatory are an example. They do not send photons upward into the sky.

Reservations are required for public night at the Observatory. For information, visit humbleisd.net/observatory.

Aaron Clevenson
Author: Aaron ClevensonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am the observatory director at the Insperity Observatory in Humble ISD. I am also an adjunct astronomy professor at Lone Star College-Montgomery where I teach solar system astronomy and stars and galaxies astronomy. I am the author of the astronomy textbook, “Astronomy for Mere Mortals.” I am a past president of the North Houston Astronomy Club, and was the chair of Astronomy Day in Southeast Texas in 2015 and 2016. He is an observing program director with The Astronomical League, coordinates their Master Observer Progression Awards, and has authored six of their observing programs.

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