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WNCC Saving Night Skies

Posted: August 5, 2004

Western Nevada Community College is investing in new outdoor lighting at its Carson City campus that will help save what is becoming an endangered resource: the dark, starry night sky. The new lights are called full, or sharp, cutoff fixtures, and they are designed to provide more usable light on the ground while cutting off light that escapes upward to obscure the evening skies.

Most older outdoor lighting fixtures direct light sideways or upwards, contributing greatly to the light pollution that, according to one study, makes it impossible for two-thirds of Americans to see the Milky Way from their backyards.

Although the new lights are beneficial to the entire community, particularly those in the college’s neighborhood, they are also helpful for scientists, students and guests using the high-powered telescopes at WNCC’s new Jack C. Davis Observatory.

Robert Collier, a professor at the college and director of the observatory, says, “We already have full cut-off lighting outside the observatory, which we turn off when we’re using the telescopes. By eliminating the ambient light from the campus, we will get even better views through the telescopes and we’ll be able to get sharper images of celestial objects.”

The lights at are being installed in several phases. The first 12 fixtures were installed on August 5. For more information, call Robert Collier. For more information about light pollution, visit the International Dark-Sky Association’s Web site at