Let There Be Night

Let There Be Night is a collection of resources—videos, activities, songs, images, a website, and more—for dark sky advocates, with emphasis on supporting the annual Globe at Night campaign in March.

For the Globe at Night 2009 campaign, the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation (PHM) in northern Indiana prepared all students in grades 3-8 to observe Orion from their homes, to send their data to Globe at Night, and to make a 3D model of the results out of LEGO® blocks. The school district’s administration, principals, teachers, and families embraced the 2009 International Year of Astronomy as they sought to answer, “How much of the night sky have we already lost?”

In preparation for the community-wide science experiment, the Let There Be Night team created new material, activities, and lessons to introduce outdoor lighting issues and solutions to the students and the greater community alike. The team also gathered existing resources, then combined the content onto a 2-DVD set, which it is distributing to international and U.S. planetariums as funding becomes available.

Highlights of the DVDs include:

  • Let There Be Night, an original animated planetarium program which can be a 30-minute stand-alone video as well;
  • Stars Above, Earth Below, an original video capturing the magnificence of the night from Tyler Nordgren’s tour of US National Parks; images and narration courtesy of Nordgren;
  • Dark Matters, an original introduction to outdoor lighting issues; video written by John McMahon and produced by Danl DuRall;
  • Saving the Night, a planetarium program written and narrated by David Levy, and re-distributed courtesy of the Southeastern Planetarium Association;
  • There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars, written by Bob Crelin and illustrated by Amie Ziner; includes complete narrated video as well as individual components that can be made into slides;
  • Ant Dances for Light, a Pacific Northwest Nations story told by Dovie Thomason (Kiowa Apache/Lakota). The Day and Night audio recording, excerpted from the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s SkyTellers series, is used with permission of LPI, Thomason, and Lynn Moroney;
  • Globe at Night teacher and family activity packets, and other valuable resources from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory;

To produce the Let There Be Night segment, the team captured video of two avatars, or animated figures, having dialogue on Second Life, a 3D online virtual world. Two featured scenes include a recreation of the courtyard in Galileo’s villa in Arcetri, near Florence, and a modern urban street scene with examples of good and poor outdoor lighting applications. In the latter setting, Second Life visitors can alter the lighting to see the impact of their action on the night environment. You can visit both scenes at Astronomy 2009 Island, the centerpiece for IYA2009 in Second Life.

Details of the Let There Be Night project are at http://www.LetThereBeNight.com.

Figure 1a
Figure 1b
Figure 1. A 3D model made of LEGO® blocks will convey how much of the night sky is already lost. Plotted on a map, the stack with purple on top represents areas with dark skies; the red represents light polluted skies. What has been removed below the level of the purple represents what has been lost.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Simulating sea turtle hatchlings dashing for the water, students scramble on their knees and elbows toward lights as teachers prey on the turtles.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Within a structure at Astronomy Island 2009 in Second Life, avatars can visit either Galileo’s villa or a modern street scene.

Figure 4
Figure 4. The Galileo avatar holds his showpiece telescope with the exaggerated stars of Orion in the background.

Figure 5
Figure 5. The Galileo avatar views through his telescope from the balcony of his villa in Second Life.

Figure 6
Figure 6. A mouse from the 21st century visits Galileo in his villa courtyard in Second Life.

Figure 7
Figure 7. Two avatars, Hypatia and Galileo, discuss astronomical discoveries and the implications of light pollution.

Figure 8
Figure 8. Images excerpted from the Let There Be Night presentation are available on the DVD.