Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) Soliciting Comments – Request For Light Pollution Comments And Consideration Of IDA Recommendations

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The following post to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Outdoor Lighting Forum from Gary Honis (astrophotographer extraordinaire) was sent along to me by John McMahon (local amateur astronomer and responsible-lighting proponent extraordinaire). John had also forwarded the youtube video from Gary concerning drilling-related light pollution made at Cherry Springs Dark Sky Park, home of the Cherry Springs Star Party (Ryan Goodson and I are currently registered for the event this year) late last fall (see the image above, taken from Gary Honis’ Skyglow from Marcellus Gas Well Drilling Site page).

Gary is requesting that concerned amateur astronomers comment on the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) website immediately as this new organization establishes standards for shale drilling. Of note is the request for the CSSD to consider the IDA lighting fixture recommendations. Of drilling-specific note is the recommendation that flaring times be limited. Gary’s post, including links to the CSSD page and several relevant articles, is provided below.

A new organization (CSSD) was formed this week comprised of the gas drilling industry and environmental groups that have reached agreement to create a system to set standards for reducing the effects of shale drilling. The article is here:

According to the article, multiple states will be covered but it does not mention any outdoor lighting or flaring controls.

The CSSD has a comment page set up for receiving comments. If you are so inclined, please consider requesting that they include exterior lighting and flaring standards to address the problem of light pollution. The CSSD comment page is here:

If they don’t receive comments from the astronomical community, I doubt lighting issues will be addressed. Below are the comments I provided:

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My recommendation is the CSSD should include flaring and lighting requirements in its standards to avoid the problems of light pollution such as glare, light trespass, energy waste and skyglow. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) maintains a list of IDA approved shielded light fixtures and also has developed lighting codes jointly with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). See

Utilizing the IDA approved light fixtures and CSSD adoption of the IDA/IESNA lighting codes would address lighting problems for adjacent land owners. It would also avoid the light pollution as documented in
the 2012 NASA Earth Observatory images showing wasted light and skyglow in North Dakota and Pennsylvania from gas drilling operations. See:

Having standards that limit flaring operations to daytime or during New Moon periods, as is being done in sensitive areas of PA, would help preserve our disappearing night sky resource.

Thanks for your consideration of this request.

Gary Honis, P.E.

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I have one YouTube video of the effect on Cherry Springs Dark Sky Park from flaring and associated unshielded lighting at gas drill rigs posted here:

The Barlow Bob and Chuck Higgins Astronomy Events (Festivals And Star Parties) Calendar For 2013

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

I was very happy to find in my inbox last week an email from solar specialist and NEAF Solar Star Party head honcho Barlow Bob containing his (and Chuck Higgins) summarized list of 2013 Astronomy Club Star Parties and assorted events. True to form, I obtained the same list from CNYO’s and New Moon Telescope’s Ryan Goodson early this week after he forwarded it from Barlow Bob. Finally, not a few minutes ago, I received a third copy of the list from Chuck Higgins.

This triplicate (I await yet another copy from another email address) delivery is one of the great things about amateur astronomy – it is, despite the large number of events posted below, a small enough community where important information for fellow amateurs is still passed around from familiar heralds like recopied science letters in old Europe and Colonial America.

The summarized list links are provided courtesy of Barlow Bob and Chuck Higgins as of 18 March 2013 (and new events may be added). If it’s on this side of the Mississippi River and they’ve announced the event already, it’s likely on this list. A PDF of this calendar can be downloaded at:




Feb 24 – Mar 2 2013 Winter Star Party Florida Keys, FL

Mar 7 – 10 Zombie Star Gaze Atlanta, GA

Apr 11 – 14 Delmarva Star Gaze Star Party Tuckahoe State Park, MD

May 2 – 5 South Jersey Spring Star Party Belleplain State Forest, NJ

Apr 12 – 13 Spring Stokes Star Party Stokes State Forest, NJ

Apr 18 – 19 Northeast Astronomical Imaging Conference 2013 Suffern, NY

Apr 20 – 21 NEAF 2013, NSSP NEAF Solar Star Party Suffern, NY

Jun 1 StarConn 2013 Wesleyan University, CT

Jun 6 – 9 Cherry Springs Star Party Cherry Springs Park, PA

Jul 10 – 13 Green Bank Star Quest Green Bank, WV

Jul 10 – 14 Mason Dixon Star Party York County, PA

Jul 12 – 13 The Conjunction 2013 Northfield, MA

Jul 24 – 27 ALCON 2013 Atlanta, GA

Aug 2 – 3 Maine State Star Party Edmunds, ME

Aug 2 – 4 AOS StarFest Savoy, MA

Aug 2 – 11 Rockland Summer Star Party Plainfield, MA

Aug 2 – 11 Savoy Star Party Savoy, MA

Aug 8 – 11 Stellafane 2013 Springfield, VT

Aug 30 – Sep 2 Arunah Hill Days Cummington, MA

Sep 6 – 8 Black Forest Star Party Cherry Springs Park, PA

Sep 6 – 8 Connecticut Star Party Ashford, CT

Sep 6 – 10 Almost Heaven Star Party Spruce Knob, WV

Sep 26 – 30 Acadia Night Sky Festival Bar Harbor, ME

Sep 29 – Oct 6 Peach State Star Gaze Sharon, GA

Oct 4 – Oct 6 Kopernik AstroFest 2013 Vestal, NY

Oct 28 – Nov 3 Chiefland Fall Star Party Chiefland Astro Village, FL

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods, 16 March 2013


ABOVE: A 15 sec. exposure from Baltimore Woods. (1) Sirius in Canis Major, (2) Orion, (3) The Hyades (the head of Taurus the Bull), (4) Jupiter, (5) the Pleiades, (6) The Moon.

The sky opened up for a crisp and clear viewing session late in the day after a long spell of heavy cloud cover on Saturday, March 16th. I made it to Baltimore Woods just in time for Bob Piekiel to direct me and my pair of Zhumell 25×100’s to the low-Western Horizon to take in Comet pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4, that is) with a light amber coloring and even a slight vertically-pointing oval that became an obvious tail at low magnification. This view only seemed to get better Sunday night (17th), where the comet was Naked Eye from downtown Syracuse!

A horizon view of pan-STARRS is shown below (above the red asterisk. Canon DS1400 IS Digital Elph, 15 second exposures). Click on the image for a larger view.


A time lapse of pan-STARRS setting below the Western horizon at Baltimore Woods is shown below (starts below the asterisk at left. Canon DS1400 IS Digital Elph, 4x zoom, 15 second exposures). Click on the image for a larger view.


A view through the Zhumell 25×100 binos is below (by way of some fancy camera balancing). Click on the image for a larger view.

2013march16_baltimorewoods_2 has a summary of the current situation on their website (as of 19 March 2013):

A growing number of people are reporting that they can see Comet Pan-STARRS with the naked eye. Best estimates place the magnitude of the comet at +0.2, about twice as bright as a 1st magnitude star. As the comet moves away from the sun, its visibility is improving. Observing tip: Step outside about an hour after sunset and face west. Pinpoint the comet using binoculars. Once you know where to look, put the optics aside and try some naked-eye observing.

By the time pan-STARRS set below the horizon, the sky was quite dark and extremely transparent. Bob and I proceeded to play for an hour with his 11” SCT, new Meade 5000 super- and ultra- wides (24 mm and 40 mm), and my personal favorite, his Collins Image Intensifier (which does exactly what it describes – increasing the brightness of objects in the eyepiece and, in many cases, making observable a dim object you might otherwise completely pass over without knowing it was there – you can see some example images here:

Besides a thoroughly enjoyable conversation about optics, focal reducers, and new eye candy to look for at NEAF, highlights of the observing session included:

Visible Planets

* Jupiter (just to the right of the Hyades, as Taurus exchanges its otherwise brightest left eye (Aldebaran) with Jupiter as its right eye). Having given Jupiter considerable scope time this year already, we checked it mostly just to confirm it was still there.

In Taurus

* Messier 45 – The Pleiades served as an excellent cluster for testing Bob’s new focal reducer (which, basically, increases the field of view). An excellent image showing what the focal reducer does is shown below (from


In Orion

* Messier 42 – The Orion Nebula (without and without enhancement, with the Collins brightening and increasing the extent of the nebulosity). The Orion Nebula is the brightest and most expansive nebula observable from Earth and it sets earlier every day, so we spent considerable time on it before missing it all Spring and Summer.

In Andromeda

* The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and Messier 32 – The intensifier brought out the presence of the central core of Andromeda but did not significantly enhance detail (specifically the dust lanes and spaces between the spiral arms that one can see in any eyepiece in dark skies). This was likely due to the presence of the Moon nearby in the sky (which can do a significant number to nebula and galaxy detail even when only present as a sliver), but I did learn some more about the intensifier eyepiece (see below). M32 (one of M31’s satellite galaxies) was also bright but featureless.

In Leo

* Messier 65, Messier 66, and NGC 3628 – All three galaxies in The Leo Triplet were excellent in the intensifier (and in the same field of view) despite the Moon. At the first Inner Harbor session, M65 and M66 were just visible (due to the the light pollution around the site) thanks to Ryan Goodson bringing a 16” New Moon Telescope Dobsonian.

In Gemini

* Messier 35 – an open cluster nearly the size of the full Moon, containing a few bright stars and a tight grouping of dimmer ones. The intensifier has a tendency to “haze” a bit around these tight groupings as the pixels on the CCD chip begin to oversaturate.

In Canis Major

* Messier 41 – While observing this open cluster, the over-saturation of the CCD chip became obvious in the form of perfectly circular discs around each of the brightest stars, making each appear to have a well-defined nebula around it (not that these stars need any kind of image enhancement to see clearly in any scope. As you might guess, brighter star = bigger + brighter disc).

In Perseus

Caldwell 14 – The Double Cluster – in the same way that stereotypical night vision goggles give you only shades (or different intensities) of green, the intensifier sacrifices color for “green intensity.” Accordingly, the reds, oranges, and blues in the Double Cluster that make it such an interesting eyepiece object go away, leaving you with just (well, not just) two dense star clusters. This is the best argument for intensifiers being used as tools for galaxy and nebulae hunting.

In Ursa Major

Messier 81 – NGC 3031, Bode’s Galaxy – An excellent sight in the intensifier despite the crescent Moon (which would otherwise make it nearly featureless).

Messier 82 – NGC 3034, Cigar Galaxy – M81’s gravitational neighbor (with M82 being the smaller neighbor and, therefore, more gravitationally influenced by M81). M82 appears to have two distinct cores in the intensifier (that would make it look like two galaxies about to merge). I attribute this double-core view to the intensifier picking up the massive filamentous structure perpendicular to M82’s galactic plane – but should buy my own intensifier to study it in more detail!).

Messier 97 (Own Nebula) + Messier 108 – Admittedly, Bob and I kept passing M108 while trying to find M97 and failed to recognize it as M108 (faint but pleasant in the intensifier). That said, M97 was a very difficult find despite Bob bringing a GOTO scope and, by the time I confirmed to myself that I had it in the field of view, I was under-impressed with the intensifier view (it was barely an object with averted vision, although some part of this could have been the Moon’s presence).

We closed the session around 9:15 p.m. by returning to the Orion Nebula for one last comparison of the intensifier and the Meade 40 mm.

Lessons for the evening: (1) Don’t assume of comets! And, if you observe, report to the group so others know to also not assume! (2) Just because you’re freezing cold doesn’t mean you should stand 1/2 inch from a portable propane heater. At what feels like cryogenic temperatures, your leg goes from 10 F to 150 F before your nerves notice it.