I have always been fascinated with science and space. My parents took me to a total solar eclipse when I was nine years old and I’ve been hooked ever since. I built a ten inch Dobsonian telescope in anticipation of the return of Halley’s comet in 1986, that was a dud as far as appearances, but it got me involved in the astronomy hobby and led to me joining the Birmingham Astronomical Society (BAS). Over the years I have become more and more interested in astronomy outreach as I’ve collected experiences and equipment. Professionally I’ve spent much of my career working on space-based telescopes including Chandra, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), and currently the ESA ATHENA telescope.
The work on JWST took me to San Diego for eleven years where I was an active member of the astronomy club there and got spoiled by the pristine weather of southern California and the short drive to the desert and dark skies.
Now that I’m back in Alabama, I am anxious to try to reclaim dark skies here in the Southeast. The skyglow in the Birmingham area has increased dramatically in the last twenty or so years. The Orion Nebula was astounding in my ten-inch scope from Shades Crest Road when it was built. And I could still just make out the Milky Way from Russet Woods before moving to San Diego in 2004. If we don’t control light pollution and unwind some of the damage, we will soon struggle to make out major constellations.
Where I live In the Hoover area many businesses use full cut-off fixtures but the intensity of the lighting is extreme. I am particularly appalled at the trend in neighborhood lighting in the recent housing developments that appear to have daytime aesthetics as their only selection criteria. The street lights’ appearance mimic old-timey gas lamps. They are awful at accomplishing their intended purpose with any degree of success or efficiency. Most of their light is wasted shining out sideways or up in the sky instead of lighting the ground below. The resulting glare causes night blindness and diminishes the intended safety result. We need to educate our residents and enact lighting ordinances to stop the spread of light pollution.
I enjoy presenting about astronomy and the night sky and would be happy to be contacted about speaking to a group or class ron behalf of Starry Skies South.