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
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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.

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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 (45)
  • caseyw.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:28 a.m.

    There is little light pollution in Arizona because they have a dark zone to study the night sky and they are getting rid of some billboards.

  • masons.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:34 a.m.

    There I little light pollution in Arizona because they passed an law in 2012 telling billboards to dim them at night and turn them off at 11pm, astronomers think it would cause light pollution and they wouldn't be able to see stars and other planets better because of the billboards being on at night.

  • landryb.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 09:50 a.m.

    There is little light pollution in Arizona because Arizona is hot there's the grand canyon there are probably some desserts to. Plus if there could be some areas where there isn't much light.

  • trinityt.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 11:25 a.m.

    Are there many astronomers in the U.S.

  • leonac.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 11:27 a.m.

    the 2012 agreement forced the billboard industry to dim their displays at night and shut them off after 11 p.m.

  • marisam.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 11:33 a.m.

    I don't know which side to choose.

  • collino.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 11:42 a.m.

    There is little light pollution in Arizona because billboard company's force people to shut off their bill boards after 11 pm

  • aarond.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 11:43 a.m.

    I find this passage interesting and it would be easier to move the billboard s somewhere else.

  • endsleyn.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 11:43 a.m.

    I'm glad where I love we don't have problems with pur light, it sure would cause problens.

  • blainej.-tay
    3/14/2016 - 03:50 p.m.

    There is little light position in Arizona because they have a law that limits the amount of time that the billboards may be turned onto full brightness.

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