Film­maker sheds light on pol­lu­tion

Bristol Post - - NEWS - Sam BEAMISH sam.beamish@reach­

ABRISTOL film­maker has made two short films high­light­ing the im­pact of light pol­lu­tion on the nat­u­ral world.

Josh Dury, who stud­ied film­mak­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of West Eng­land, has re­leased Back to Light and Star­link – A Bat­tle for the Skies on YouTube.

Josh, 22, who worked as a pro­duc­tion run­ner on the BBC’s TV pro­gramme The Sky at Night, said his pas­sion for as­tron­omy came at a young age.

He said: “When I was seven years old I watched sci­ence fic­tion pro­grammes and that devel­oped into want­ing to see more of the cosmos through a tele­scope.”

Josh then started ob­serv­ing more dis­tant ob­jects in­clud­ing gal­ax­ies and neb­u­lae as an am­a­teur as­tronomer.

Back to Light was cre­ated when Blue Planet II was broad­cast and many of us be­came aware of the plas­tic cri­sis and its ef­fects on our oceans. How­ever, Josh re­alised that it wasn’t just our oceans which were be­ing neg­a­tively af­fected by mankind and he turned his at­ten­tion to light pol­lu­tion.

The aim of the film is to raise public aware­ness about the im­pli­ca­tions of light pol­lu­tion on the nat­u­ral world and its im­pact on as­tronomers, wildlife con­ser­va­tion and hu­man health.

Josh said: “Dur­ing my fi­nal year I started pro­duc­ing the short film Back to Light about how as­tronomers are af­fected by light pol­lu­tion and their abil­ity to look into the cosmos, as well as the ef­fects of light on wildlife and hu­man health con­di­tions.”

One of the things Josh dis­cov­ered was the ef­fects of light on the hor­mone mela­tonin, which reg­u­lates the sleep-wake cy­cle, with more light hav­ing a neg­a­tive ef­fect on its pro­duc­tion.

In the film, Josh, who is also the main pre­sen­ter, speaks to Bob Mi­zon of the Cam­paign for Dark Skies.

Mr Mi­zon says: “It’s about as­tron­omy, it’s about hu­man health, it’s about the en­vi­ron­ment, down here not just up there, it’s about money, it’s about en­ergy; there’s a tremen­dous num­ber of dif­fer­ent as­pects of light­ing.

“Peo­ple don’t re­alise it’s a prob­lem which could eas­ily be solved. Get­ting rid of the huge scourge of plas­tic will be a huge un­der­tak­ing, but get­ting rid of light pol­lu­tion, what do you do? You put the lights in the right di­rec­tion, not too bright and switch them off when they’re not needed.

“What wor­ries me and lots of other night sky cam­paign­ers is LED is run­ning out of con­trol – that’s the big prob­lem. We’ve got this won­der­ful new tech­nol­ogy that’s be­ing com­pletely mis­ap­plied.”

Josh, who now lives in the Mendips, also looks into how light af­fects noc­tur­nal crea­tures, in­clud­ing hedge­hogs, whose num­bers have dropped mas­sively since the 1950s.

His sec­ond film, Star­link – A Bat­tle for the Skies, looks at the threat to the night sky posed by mega-satel­lite con­stel­la­tions.

Josh said: “Be­ing a lo­cal from the Mendips, I have seen a dra­matic change in the qual­ity of the night sky in re­cent years and the devel­op­ment of mega-satel­lite con­stel­la­tions are also con­tribut­ing to the is­sue.”

The short film fo­cuses on SpaceX’s Star­link pro­ject to launch 12,000 satel­lites by the mid 2020s to pro­vide a global in­ter­net ser­vice.

Josh ex­plained: “The satel­lites are aim­ing to pro­vide 5g in­ter­net to even the most re­mote places in the world in­clud­ing the Sa­hara Desert.”

How­ever, there are con­cerns that these fleets of satel­lites could even­tu­ally ob­scure the night sky.

Josh said: “After the satel­lites are first launched they ap­pear close to­gether in a “stream of pearls” ef­fect, which even­tu­ally separate the higher they reach in their or­bits where their ‘mag­ni­tude’ or bright­ness re­duces.

“The con­cern to as­tronomers is that they are cur­rently vis­i­ble dur­ing dawn and dusk when the satel­lites re­flect sun­light. Even though their mag­ni­tude will re­duce the higher they are pro­pelled, they will re­main vis­i­ble for longer dur­ing the night”.

He added: “SpaceX is cur­rently launch­ing batches of 60 satel­lites ev­ery two weeks. In more re­cent launches, SpaceX is test­ing one in ev­ery 60 satel­lites with black coat­ings to min­imise their sur­face re­flec­tiv­ity and im­pact on as­tronomers”.

Josh con­tin­ued: “The film was pro­duced to cre­ate a voice for the in­ter­na­tional as­tron­omy com­mu­nity, which formed a col­lab­o­ra­tion with

BBC Sky at Night pre­sen­ter Pete Lawrence, as­tropho­tog­ra­pher Alyn Wal­lace and as­tronomers across the United King­dom, Am­s­ter­dam, Brazil and Chile.

“The short film high­lights the po­ten­tial im­pact to as­tron­omy and the nat­u­ral world and whether for the sake of the in­ter­net, it is right for thou­sands of in­di­vid­ual satel­lites to take over the night sky and our open win­dow to the uni­verse”.

Above, a photo by Josh Dury, of Crooks Peak in the Mendips and the sky at night; left, Josh with Bob Mi­zon and a light pol­lu­tion map of the UK

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