Announcements

I'll be visiting West Texas from December 25-29, so if you're around then let me know and we'll get together!

Rising Star in the Astronomical Community

You've just got to love The Great Courses. This is what television could have been. PBS is the only thing that comes close. I just completed The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know, presented by Dr. Joshua Winn, now at Princeton University. Not since Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson have I been this excited about an astronomy presenter. Josh Winn presents his exoplanets course with enthusiasm, precision, and a delivery that really draws you in to the subject. I hope we see much more of him in the future.

Avoid Blue-Rich LED Lighting

As Dodgeville (and many other towns) are planning to replace their streetlights with LED luminaires, it is imperative that the LEDs that are used have a CCT (correlated color temperature) of 3000 K or less. This is a "warm" white light (similar to incandescent) rather than the "cold" blue-rich light often seen with LEDs. On June 14, 2016, the American Medical Association issued guidance on this subject.

"Discomfort and disability from intense, blue-rich LED lighting can decrease visual acuity and safety, resulting in concerns and creating a road hazard."

"In addition to its impact on drivers, blue-rich LED streetlights operate at a wavelength that most adversely suppresses melatonin during night. It is estimated that white LED lamps have five times greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps. Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity."

"The detrimental effects of high-intensity LED lighting are not limited to humans. Excessive outdoor lighting disrupts many species that need a dark environment. For instance, poorly designed LED lighting disorients some bird, insect, turtle and fish species, and U.S. national parks have adopted optimal lighting designs and practices that minimize the effects of light pollution on the environment."

"Recognizing the detrimental effects of poorly-designed, high-intensity LED lighting, the AMA encourages communities to minimize and control blue-rich environmental lighting by using the lowest emission of blue light possible to reduce glare. The AMA recommends an intensity threshold for optimal LED lighting that minimizes blue-rich light. The AMA also recommends all LED lighting should be properly shielded to minimize glare and detrimental human health and environmental effects, and consideration should be given to utilize the ability of LED lighting to be dimmed for off-peak time periods."

For your residential lighting needs, a good local source for LED bulbs that are not blue-rich is Madison Lighting. They have many LED bulbs in both 3000 K and 2700 K. I use 2700K bulbs exclusively in my home, and the warm white light they provide is an excellent replacement for incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. Wherever you buy them, I suggest you purchase a 2700K bulb and a 4000K bulb (a CCT that is often used for roadway lighting) and compare them in your home. I believe that you will much prefer the 2700K lighting. If 2700K lighting is best for your home, then why should it not be best for outdoor lighting as well? If you have ever been irritated at night by an oncoming vehicle with those awful "blue" headlights, you've experienced firsthand why blue-rich light in our nighttime environment must be minimized.

Night Sky Viewing Near Dodgeville

I'm looking for a place within 10 miles or so of Dodgeville with a good view of the night sky and no nearby lights where I could quietly set up a telescope or lawn chair (for meteors) or camera (for northern lights photography) at any time of any clear night. I'd be willing to pay for the privilege. There are good observing locations at Governor Dodge State Park, but I'd have to leave the park by 11:00 p.m. which is soon after astronomical twilight ends during the summer months. I used to have a good observing location at a farmer's field access, but it is now roped off with a no-trespassing sign (not due to me—this happened during the five and a half years I was in Texas). It is so difficult to find a legally-accessible dark-sky-site in the Dodgeville area. Can you help?

Designated Night-Sky Viewing Areas at Governor Dodge and Other State Parks

Governor Dodge State Park was established in 1955 and is the fourth largest state park in Wisconsin. It offers several excellent locations for astronomical observation, most notably the large open grassy area just east of the Twin Valley Lake picnic area, and the paved parking lot for the backpack campsites. The latter location is the furthest away from the urban skyglow of Dodgeville that offers a good view of nearly the entire sky.

State park regulations require everyone to leave the park by 11:00 p.m., with some exceptions made for overnight campers, fishing, and public programs in progress (such as public star parties). Since most stargazing can only be done after 11:00 p.m. (especially during the warm months of the year), this rule greatly diminishes access to our state parks for astronomical activities. I would like to see one designated area of Governor Dodge State Park—the Twin Valley Lake picnic area site—open all night long for astronomical activities. So, we would add an additional exception to the 11:00 p.m. curfew:

7. Registered stargazers may be in or en route to the designated observing site during closed hours.

A "registered" stargazer would be anyone who has a non-expired annual state park pass and has registered with the park as an amateur astronomer / stargazer. Whenever possible, those planning to visit the designated observing site after hours should notify park staff that day before the park office closes, but this should not be required as sometimes the sky unexpectedly clears or a northern lights display commences after hours that cannot be anticipated beforehand.

Here's another idea. The Wisconsin DNR could issue an extra-fee annual astronomy sticker which would allow registrants 24-7 access to designated astronomy areas in participating state parks. This is an attractive idea because it would be another revenue source for our cash-strapped state park system. Administration and site maintenance costs would be minimal.

An Astronomical Observatory for Governor Dodge State Park

I would also like to see a public observatory built at Governor Dodge at the Twin Valley Lake picnic area observing site. One need only go down the road 71 minutes (and 57 miles) to Wyalusing State Park to visit the wonderful Huser Astronomy Center to find inspiration for what could be done at Governor Dodge. However, as often happens, funds were donated to build the astronomy center but not to operate it. An all-volunteer organization, the Starsplitters of Wyalusing State Park, operates this astronomy center, and it is frequently a challenge to find volunteers to do the many programs that are required and requested throughout the year. I firmly believe that if a part-time employee were hired by Wyalusing State Park and paid by the DNR to operate the astronomy center and coordinate the volunteers, this would ensure that the astronomy center can be sustained and prosper for many years to come. The same must be done if an observatory is ever to be built at Governor Dodge.

Gun Violence Research Stifled

Every once in a while, you come across an article that is so well-written and eye-opening that you feel everyone should read it. The cover story of the May 14, 2016 issue of Science News is: Gun Research Holdup: Lack of data hinders clear conclusions about how to prevent firearm violence. Fortunately, this article is available online to non-subscribers.

Dodgeville is Not Bicycle Friendly

Quite a few people living in Dodgeville work at Lands' End, but there really isn't a safe bicycle route connecting Lands' End with most of Dodgeville. Right now, we basically have two choices—neither of them are very safe. You can ride down Lehner Rd. to US 18 and then ride along the south shoulder of the highway until you get up to King St., then cross the highway there (no traffic lights). Or, alternatively, you can ride on the busiest street in town, N. Bequette St., and then follow rubblized W. Leffler St. up to King St.

There's a large piece of farm land for sale between W. North St. and US 18, and though most of us would prefer that it remain farm land, chances are that it will someday be developed into Dodgeville's newest residential subdivision. If and when that happens, we should put in an asphalt bike path adjacent to the new road that will almost certainly get built to connect W. Chapel St. to King St. Of course, the W. Chapel / US 18 / King St. intersection will need to have traffic signals. What a wonderful addition this bike path would be to our community!

In the meantime, it would help if Lands' End constructed a short connector bike path from the north shoulder of US 18 just east of the Lehner Rd. intersection to Lands' End Lane as shown here. Wisconsin DOT would need to give their approval to the project, but this should mostly be a formality.

While we're on the topic of bicycles, has anyone else noticed how much worse condition the streets are in—not just in Dodgeville but everywhere—than they were, say, 40 or 50 years ago? The transverse cracking and alligator cracking on our city streets is as bad as I have ever seen, and certainly must be a major factor in why there are so few bicycle riders in our town.

Iowa County Needs a Secular Choir

Iowa County, Wisconsin needs a secular, four-part (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir for adult singers that meets regularly. When was the last time this area had something like that? I really miss singing in the tenor section of the Sul Ross State University Concert Choir under the outstanding leadership of Dr. Donald Freed.

When Small Solar System Objects Pass in Front of Stars

Happily, I began observing asteroid occultation events again in September 2016. I intend to become increasingly active in this research niche as time goes on, especially once I begin semi-retirement in about five or six years. I'd like to get very involved in IOTA activities, especially developing a turnkey system to make it easy and affordable for many more observers to participate in this interesting and rewarding area of astronomical data collection. I would also like to become deeply involved in the computational aspects of occultation science.

In the future, astronomical research will increasingly consist of crowd-sourced analysis of archived data generated by a few large telescopes around the world and in space, where the researcher's location is not important at all. While certainly this will lead to many discoveries, I would like to focus on an area of astronomical data collection where the observer's location is crucial: occultation science. The star-shadows that asteroids and TNOs cast upon the Earth's surface are at most a few miles wide, and if the observer is not in the shadow path, an event will not be recorded. The chances of a professional research observatory being in the path of any particular event of interest are usually quite small.

Eventually, we'll be able to directly image infrared dwarfs and even exoplanets during some asteroid and TNO occultation events. Currently, we can use them to discover new binary stars, asteroid & TNO satellites, and asteroid & TNO ring systems. With multiple observing stations (and events), we can accurately characterize the size and shapes of asteroids and TNOs. Even with a single observing station, we can determine a very accurate position for an asteroid or TNO, and thus improve that object's orbital elements.