Filmmaker sheds light on pollution
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