Light Pollution.  What causes it and is there a low cost way to get around it?

Anyone who’s looked at the night sky in the city or suburbs knows what light pollution is. The light from street lights, cars, shopping centres, homes and countless other sources scatters in the atmosphere turning the night sky into a dull, murky mush and blocking the light from all but the brightest stars and planets.

Light pollution is a costly and wasteful use of resources. Through billions of years of evolution, the natural cycle of day and night is tightly embedded into the DNA plants and animals. By disrupting this cycle via artificial lighting, not only the environment is harmed but our own health and wellbeing is adversely impacted as well. 

On top of the cost and harm it causes, light pollution robs everyone of a good chunk of the wonders of a truly dark night sky. 

We often get asked at BINTEL if there’s a way to get around light pollution when observing through a telescope or taking astro images. 

Sadly, there’s nothing that can be done to stop it completely except getting away from city lights. 

BUT there’s a number of light pollution reduction (LRP) filters and accessories that can assist somewhat. 

These work by blocking the light frequencies from some of the main sources of light pollution while allowing through the narrow band of light produced by astronomical objects like nebulae. They are a start and will let you see more when observing from washed out skies in the city or suburbs. 

One product we’ve been impressed by is the Orion Sky-Glow filter. This $115 gizmo screws into the bottom of any standard 1.25” eyepiece that comes with almost every telescope.

The light we see from above us comes from two main sources. One is of course direct starlight from the stars themselves. You might notice that stars have slightly different colours and this difference becomes more obvious viewed through a telescope. The light from the Moon, planets and some types of nebula comes to us in the same way everything in daylight is seen. Light from the Sun (or their nearest star) reflects off it. Galaxies including our Milky Way are lit up by the light from stars as well. 

Even though we see stars as different colours, they emit light across a very wide range of frequencies. 

A large percentage of light pollution that blocks out the night sky comes from street lighting that does not emit light across all visible light frequencies. A filter like the Orion Sky-Glow can block out a significant percentage of this polluting light. This will increase the contrast and details of astro objects that shine through reflected star light. 

Orion SkyGlow Filter

(Photo of M42 showing the effects of a SkyGlow filter)

One spectacular type of astronomical object that’s always a favourite with telescope owners are emission nebulae like the Orion Nebula (M 42) or the Eta Carina (The Keyhole) Nebula and Tarantula Nebula in the far southern skies.  These types of nebulae don’t directly reflect starlight. Instead, the gasses they’re made of them absorbs energy from nearby stars and emits light at a different and very limited range of wavelengths.  Filters can block out light pollution but only have to let a very limited range of light through to bring out much of the details of these types of nebulae and greatly improve the viewing and imaging of them in city and suburban skies. 

Bottom line – will I see a difference using a light filter like the Orion Sky Glow?

The short answer is that there is a very good chance it will reduce the impact of light pollution and will improve your views. Planets and star clusters will improve slightly. Objects like the Orion Nebula will definitely be improved. 

Nothing beats a trip away into the country to spend some time under Australia’s magnificent dark night sky, but the Orion Sky Glow Filter is a low cost accessory and one we suggest is well worth trying.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

BINTEL JWST Giveaway Competition

BINTEL doesn’t sell Chocolates but that doesn’t stop us from having a Golden Ticket Giveaway! To celebrate the successful launch and deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), over the coming weeks we’ll be including one of 18, 3D Printed miniatures of the JWST’s segmented main mirror in randomly selected online and phone orders…

How light pollution impacts us and the environment

Alex Lay from The Australasian Dark Sky Alliance explains the effects of light pollution and how we help fight it –  If you look up at the sky above you tonight, what would you see? A lucky few of you reading this may see thousands of the twinkling lights we call stars, an opportunity to…

What Telescope is Best For Children or Teenagers?

If you’re reading this you’re probably a parent who has realised your child is potential astronaut material. We all think that about our children, it’s normal. Maybe they are or maybe they aren’t. Let’s not saddle them with the weight of our own crushed dreams. If your child is showing an interest in space and…

BINTEL Gift Guide – $200 to $500

More great gift ideas for exploring the skies above and the land and sea Confused about what to get your family and friends for Christmas? Here’s some cool products the team at BINTEL have put together as suggestions. $200 to $300 Minox X-Lite 8X26 Binoculars – $299 Small and rugged binoculars  Pocket size yet powerful…

ASTRONOMY Christmas Gifts Under $200!

Great gift ideas for discovering both inner and outer space Confused about what to get your family and friends for Christmas? Here’s some cool products the team at BINTEL have put together as suggestions. $100 or less Kenko Pocket Microscope 60X-120X – $49 A handy way discover the small and fascinating world around us. Great…

The Stellina Telescope in Sydney Store Now – Viewings Available!

Want to take photos of space, or to quickly observe for yourself, friends, family or public outreach without all the hassle of setting up a complicated astrophotography rig? The automatic Stellina telescope – or “observation station” – may be the correct solution. Unlike anything we’ve had in store before, the Stellina is a new class…

New Nikon MONARCH M5 and M7 Binoculars at BINTEL

Just in time for National Bird Week 2021, BINTEL are excited to announce availability of the new Nikon M5 and M7 series of binoculars, successors to the popular MONARCH 5 and MONARCH 7 which have been favourites for many years.  Both the M5 and M7 have extra-low dispersion (ED) glass for razor sharp, high contrast…

Book a Call with a Telescope Expert

Need to work out some stuff before your next telescope or accessory purchase and don’t know where to start? Book a timeslot with one of our experts who can help you buy the part the fits or the scope that suits! BOOK ONLINE NOW

New BINTEL Deimos Semi-APO refractor now available!

We’ve received the first stocks of the new BINTEL Deimos 72mm semi-APO refractor telescope. (The 80mm Ganymede version telescopes are arriving mid July) It’s been tricky getting many telescopes recently as quite a few would know and we’re very happy we’ve been able to secure these.  We’d hoped to have them a couple of months…

BINTEL Dobsonian Telescopes – only a few left

There’s nothing like a big Dobsonian telescope for viewing the delights of the night sky. They offer the best size to cost value of any telescope! Great for seeing Solar System jewels like the rings of Saturn, Jupiter and its satellites, craters and mountains on the Moon as well as vast numbers of deep-sky objects…

Shopping cart
Ultima 100
Continue shopping