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Dark Sky Week: Starry Nights in Haddam

By Sally Haase.

In 1970, we were excited when we bought our house in Haddam, a small quiet town, mostly wooded at that time. I remember the sky was full of stars, more so than where we grew up. I grew up in Suffield on a farm about three miles from Bradley Field, a military airport then. On the farm, the sky, the sunrises and sunsets were fabulous. But as Bradley Field grew into a commercial airport the lights and noise of the airport became an issue in the town. And so the stars in the night sky faded at a pace so slow that I really didn’t notice.

Photo by Erich Twachtman

Dick grew up in Wethersfield, a stone’s throw from Hartford, Pratt and Whitney, and Brainard Airport. Again, commercial and industrial lighting illuminated the night sky.

The Haddam sky was a delight. I remember mentioning the number of stars here to a friend who moved to Haddam before us. He told us there are more stars in Haddam. We often repeat his words, “There are more stars in Haddam.” Yet again, as Middletown and the surrounding towns were developing we began to see the glow in the horizons.

While today we can still see the Milky Way from some dark corners of town, the view of the galaxy is not nearly as impressive compared to that in unpopulated areas in the West or at many of the National Parks. A satellite map of the states show an alarming amount of light along the east coast. Lying between Boston and New York, Connecticut’s skies are fading from encroaching development. We cannot turn back the clock to a time without electricity, but we can attempt to preserve the dark sky as it is now.

The Dark Sky movement was started by a teenager from Virginia, Jennifer Barlow, and now yearly we celebrate the universe on International Dark Sky Week, the week of the new moon in April. More than a celebration, its mission is to make us aware of the consequences of light pollution on our lives. Not just the waste and cost of energy, light pollution has an effect on our health. Because light-dark cycles regulate the production of melatonin, changes can disrupt our circadian rhythm, leading to what some research finds negative health effects such as diabetes, breast cancer and depression to name a few.

The eco-system, as well, is negatively affected. Both plants and animals that depend on the dark-light cycle for growth, sleep, hunting, breeding, and pollinations are disturbed by man’s new world. Migrating birds, confused by city lights, often circle light to the point of exhaustion. Hatchling sea turtles will march inland rather than to the ocean.

So, what do we do? We can get involved. We can establish Dark Sky ordinances in our town. We can educate ourselves and our children about light pollution. For a start, check out the website : www.DarkSky.org.

International Dark Sky Week this year is March 31 to April 7, 2019. Let’s celebrate. Go outside and look up! Observe and fathom our significance in the universe. More importantly, turn off your indoor and outdoor lights. Light only what is needed and only when it’s needed. Remember, there are more stars in Haddam. Let’s preserve them.

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