A Light Map Could Illuminate How Street Lamps Are Part Of Pittsburgh’s Pollution Problems

Streetlights emitting artificial beams through neighborhoods every night could be to blame for decreasing firefly populations and a generation of young people with no concept of what the Milky Way looks like in a starry night sky. A Carnegie Mellon University professor and self-proclaimed dark-sky defender, Diane Turnshek, is working with a small team to study the problem of night time light pollution in the Pittsburgh area.

Turnshek has been gathering high resolution images of Pittsburgh at night since November. Winter is the best time to collect this data because researchers aren’t competing with tree coverage, says Turnshek, who founded the Pittsburgh chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association.

The International Dark-Sky Association is the leading organization combating light pollution worldwide. The group has worked with several national parks to establish, “dark-sky oases,” where the nighttime sky is preserved.

A summer class of Carnegie Mellon University students is compiling the images and data collected by Turnshek and her CMU colleague, Stephen Quick, to create a light map of Pittsburgh at night.