Light causes fight in Arizona Sarah Conant, creative specialist at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., adjusts one of the telescopes on the campus Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Felicia Fonseca/Jake Bacon /The Daily News-Sun via AP)
Light causes fight in Arizona
Lexile

Arizona has long been a haven for astronomers. They take advantage of the state's mountain peaks and vast stretches of dark, desert sky to gaze at stars and planets. The state is also home to a thriving billboard industry. Its signs light up a vast network of freeways.
 
The two industries have long clashed. Now they are in the midst of another fight. It has reached the Arizona Legislature.
 
A bill would allow electronic billboards to shine in two counties. They are in the western part of the state. It is where they have been banned under a 2012 agreement. The deal designates a corridor for dark skies, to limit light pollution around observatories.
 
Astronomers say the exemption will threaten dark skies. But billboard makers don't believe it will hurt the industry. The House passed the bill on a 32-26 vote. Now it moves to the Senate.
 
Just what is Arizona's dark sky corridor? It is a zone created to protect the night sky. What is it protecting the sky from?  It is protecting it from the street lights, electronic signs and other sources of excess artificial light.  The light causes what is known as light pollution. The dark light corridor is basically a buffer surrounding the state's main observatories.
 
Astronomers and others use the corridor to observe the night sky for research. The experts use the corridor for stargazing, GPS monitoring and even national defense purposes. This is according to Jeffrey Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
 
The 2012 agreement allows electronic billboards in Phoenix and some western parts of the state along Interstates 8 and 10. Phoenix billboards were exempt because the metro area already emits vast amounts of light. A change would not make a difference for dark skies.
 
Arizona is home to three of the country's largest telescopes. They are at Lowell Observatory, Kitt Peak National Observatory outside Tucson and Mount Graham National Observatory near Safford.
 
The astronomy industry has capital investments totaling $1.3 billion in Arizona as of 2008. It spends an additional $250 million annually, Hall said.
 
Hall says the measure would renege on the 2012 compromise and could lead to fewer limits on light pollution in the future.
 
"It sends a very bad message to future, potential investors that Arizona is slowly loosening its restrictions that the Arizona dark sky community depends on," he said.
 
The proposal would allow electronic billboards along the Interstate 15 corridor. It is in the northwest corner of the state. It could impair a park with a dark sky designation, said John Barentine, program manager with the Dark-Sky Association.
 
Dark sky advocates are concerned light that the signs emit could affect the sensitive technologies used to look at distant celestial bodies.
 
Concessions made in the 2012 agreement force the billboard industry to dim their displays at night. They shut them off after 11 p.m.
 
Billboard companies, including industry giant Lamar Advertising, now want to loosen some of those restrictions. Tim La Sota, who represents the company, said Mohave and La Paz counties fall outside the buffer zone for observatories. Those counties were largely left out of discussions on the deal.
 
La Sota said dark sky advocates don't have to worry about electronic billboards in rural areas.
 
"People aren't going to put these billboards out on an untraveled country road. It doesn't make any commercial sense," he said.
 
Billboard companies would most likely build new electronic signs along Interstate 40, Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 93 around Kingman and Bullhead City.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is there so little light pollution in Arizona?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (42)
  • 27-hadlie-mar
    3/15/2016 - 11:37 a.m.

    There is so little light pollution first of all because you can only put light up billboards in certain places. The second reason is that they came to an agreement that stated the billboards are "shut off after 11 p.m." They also have corridors which are places they are not able to put up big signs that light up.

    • 6-tyler-mar
      3/15/2016 - 11:47 a.m.

      yes if they do that so that the obseveratorys can see the night sky because when there is light you can't see the night sky witch is why they ''shut off at 11pm''.

  • 9-sadie-mar
    3/15/2016 - 11:39 a.m.

    There is so little light pollution in Arizona because they found out that they can prevent light pollution by creating a place to protect the night sky. In the text it says, "It is a zone to protect the night sky." and, "It is protecting it from street lights, electronic signs and other sources of artificial light." I think that the idea they had to protect the night sky is a great idea. Imagine if you could not see ANY stars at night.

  • 14-gracie-mar
    3/15/2016 - 11:39 a.m.

    There is so little light pollution in Arizona because they have billboards that contain there own light. It says in the article, "A bill would allow electronic billboards to shine in two counties. They are in the western part of the state. It is where they have been banned under a 2012 agreement. The deal designates a corridor for dark skies, to limit light pollution around observatories."

  • 28-jamisonc.-mar
    3/15/2016 - 11:40 a.m.

    Arizona has very little light polution so now there is artificial light in most areas such as where billboards street lights and lights from other things that people in Arizona use

  • 4-isaac-mar
    3/15/2016 - 11:40 a.m.

    there is little light pollution in Arizona because there are laws against having light pollution in some area's in Arizona. The billboards they do have contain the light and don't let it out. And that is why Arizona has little light pollution.

  • 25-berkeley-mar
    3/15/2016 - 11:41 a.m.

    There is little light pollution in Arizona because there are laws restricting it. In the text it says "A bill would allow electronic billboards to shine in two counties. They are in the western part of the state. It is where they have been banned by a 2012 agreement. a deal designates a corridor for dark skies, to limit the light pollution and observations."

    • 22-kamille-mar
      3/15/2016 - 11:48 a.m.

      Yeah Berkeley! And also, the places that allow billboards made laws how late they can use them.

  • 21-johnny-mar
    3/15/2016 - 11:41 a.m.

    I think that there is so little light pollution in Arizona because the astronomers want it to be light so they can see the stars and the skies and so the light doesn't change the color of the sky. It is also probably not as light because "Concessions made in the 2012 agreement force the billboard industry to dim their displays at night. They shut them off after 11 p.m." That is why there is so little light pollution in Arizona.

  • 18-luke-mar
    3/15/2016 - 11:42 a.m.

    I didn't know that that many people care about watching stars and the night sky. That was very interesting to me. :O

    • 17-david-mar
      3/15/2016 - 11:49 a.m.

      You never knew that some people like to go star gazing? I myself sometimes like to sit out on my trampoline at night looking at the stars.

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