Lights limit study of our skies

To the editor:

The New Hampshire Astronomical Society is a non-profit organization with more than 150 members state-wide dedicated to serving the public. We work with schools, libraries, scout troops and other organizations to provide education in astronomy. I am proud to say that our “Library Telescope Program,” which has put high-quality telescopes that can be checked out like books into more than 70 libraries around the state, just won Astronomy Magazine’s 2012 “Out Of This World” award for best educational outreach program in the country.

For more than 10 years we have invested in and maintained a “Dark Sky” observatory site in Hillsborough for the use of members, the education of the public and to conduct scientific research. The Crotched Mountain ski area is less than 10 miles due south of our observatory site and the sky glow from the ski area is easily visible high above the horizon. This means that there is an entire area of the sky in which we can no longer observe, and research we can no longer conduct, due to the uncontrolled and improperly designed nighttime lighting of the ski area.

By doing so they steal a precious resource, namely our New Hampshire dark skies, to increase their profitability. I cannot build a house right up to my neighbor’s property line because this would be an encroachment. I cannot throw stones onto his property, nor shine bright lights at his house all night — all of these would be considered encroachments and nuisances. We fail to see why a for-profit entity that engages in similar behavior regarding a public resource, our irreplaceable New Hampshire night sky, should be given a free pass to do so, especially when the solution to the problem, properly designed and installed lighting, is more cost-effective and can actually reduce the annual electricity usage for the ski area resulting in lower annual operating costs.

Richard R. DeMidio


President, New Hampshire Astronomical Society

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