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Many people live and die without ever seeing the Milky Way because of light pollution. Princeton University astrophysicist Gaspar Bakos wants to change that. 16 minutes
Since the dawn of humanity, a masterpiece of stars in a dark night sky has been the birthright of our species. Our oldest stories revolve around the pictures we spied in a sea of constellations. But that birthright has been squandered. More than 80 percent of the world’s population, and 99 percent of Americans and Europeans, now live under light polluted skies. Many people live and die without ever seeing the Milky Way. Astrophysicist Gaspar Bakos wants to change that. He is one of a growing number of experts championing simple, commonsense changes to outdoor lighting that can dramatically reduce light pollution.
Bakos was born in Hungary, grew up under pitch black skies on a farm in Nigeria, studied at Harvard, and now teaches astrophysics at Princeton University. His research centers on discovering exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) using networks of ground-based telescopes and cameras. Increasing amounts of light pollution force Bakos to travel to some of the most remote places on Earth to conduct his research. But as Bakos teaches his students, light pollution is a problem that impacts far more than astronomical research and stargazers.
New studies show that excessive amounts of outdoor lighting contribute to a myriad of human health problems (cancer and depression among them), squander energy, and have a dramatic negative impact on all sorts of wildlife, particularly birds and insects. Bakos’s approach is to promote positive change one streetlight at a time. Simple solutions to light pollution can be summed up in a few words: make lights dimmer, shield lights so they only shine downward, and use warm-colored lightbulbs.
In Princeton, New Jersey, where Bakos lives, he dreams of a park set aside for dark sky viewing, where all surrounding lights are muted and properly shielded. And by setting a good example, he hopes other communities will be inspired to do the same. "Dark Sacred Night" is a special storytelling project of the Princeton University Office of Sustainability.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Jared Flescher and Bakos.
Presented in partnership with Sustainable Princeton.
For a full list of Princeton Environmental Film Festival films and events, please visit our website.
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