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Protection of Hawaii’s Observatories From Light Pollution

Presentation #319.05 in the session Recent Successes in Dark Skies Preservation: Flagstaff and Beyond (3).

Published onJul 01, 2023
Protection of Hawaii’s Observatories From Light Pollution

Maunakea observatory, on the Island of Hawaii, has been protected by a strong lighting ordinance for many years. This has provided good protection for the dark sky, and the night sky over Maunakea remains very dark. Nevertheless, the ordinance is in need of update, and recent challenges, including the ongoing transition from low-pressure sodium lighting to light emitting diode lighting, will be discussed. Haleakala observatory, located on the Island of Maui, has been protected by a much weaker lighting ordinance that was strengthened in 2022. Maui’s new lighting ordinance was partly motivated by protection of endangered birds and turtles, and copies some of the spectral limitations from the Island of Hawaii ordinance. Haleakala is also an excellent observatory site, but the sky is less dark than Maunakea due to the smaller size of the island, which results in people living closer to the observatory, together with the weaker lighting restrictions, and closer proximity to the large city of Honolulu, which makes the northwestern sky brighter. The successes and weaknesses of the dark sky protection at both observatories will be discussed.

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