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. Arizona is also home to a thriving billboard industry. Its signs light up a vast network of freeways.
 
The two industries have long clashed. They are in the midst of another fight in the Arizona Legislature.
 
A bill would allow electronic billboards to shine in two counties 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 and it now moves to the Senate.
 
Just what is Arizona's dark sky corridor? It is a zone created to protect the night sky from street lights, electronic signs and other sources of excess artificial light.  The light causes what is known as light pollution. It is basically a buffer surrounding the state's main observatories.
 
Astronomers and others use the corridor to observe the night sky for research, 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 - 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 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 and 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.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 50 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is there so little light pollution in Arizona?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (45)
  • alexandrias-2-bar
    3/11/2016 - 01:31 a.m.

    The reason that Arizona has so little light pollution is because "Concessions made in the 2012 agreement force the billboard industry to dim their displays at night and shut them off after 11 p.m." I found this article interesting because it talks about light pollution, which in my opinion, should be limited because it has a negative impact on the environment and restricts the viewing of stars.

  • kayah-4-bar
    3/11/2016 - 10:52 a.m.

    There is so little light pollution in Arizona because the congress an people have been at a fight, but now there are less billboards that are not needed, and before those billboards had lights connected to them to show them at night."Concessions made in the 2012 agreement force the billboard industry to dim their displays at night and shut them off after 11 p.m." (paragraph 14). I thought this article was very interesting and they're should not be any more billboards with lights on untraveled roads.

  • batiar-3-bar
    3/11/2016 - 04:29 p.m.

    There is so little light pollution in Arizona because Arizona is known for astronomers. "A bill would allow electronic billboards to shine in two counties 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." When light pollution increases there is no way to see the stars, forcing astronomers to leave. I found this article very interesting because the amount of money and laws put in to all of this. I think astronomy is very educational and unique. It is crazy to think that there are billions of stars in space and not one of them is the same as another and how our ancestors used to look at the same stars we look at today. It is also interesting because the stars are also used for navigation. The stars are magically beautiful and I would love to go somewhere with very little light pollution to see them.

  • tatumh.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:17 a.m.

    There is so little light because the billboard people and astronomers have already been in a fight about billboards in certain areas.

  • evakathrynj.1-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:23 a.m.

    Arizona has little light pollution because the billboard industry was forced to dim their lights and completely shut them off at 11p.m..

  • gracih.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:24 a.m.

    There is so l little light pollution in Arizona because Arizona is home to three of the largest telescopes in the world. Astronomers use the telescopes to look up at planets and stars. With more light, astronomers would not be able to see the stars or planets.????????

  • mikaylaz.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:26 a.m.

    There is so little light pollution in Arizona because there is an organization whose priorities are keeping the dark sky from light pollution.

  • gagec.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:26 a.m.

    I think that having the billboards dim when it gets dark and then shutting them off at eleven is not a good idea because people that are traveling the roads at night might use the billboards to see if there is a hotel somewhere. In this case, just have the billboards dimmed at night.

  • meaganw.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:27 a.m.

    Why do we have light up billboards if they could "harm" pollution?

  • calebt.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:28 a.m.

    If they put them on crowded roads or in city's thin the light around them should make them seem dark.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT