Documenting Local Night Sky Brightness Using Sky Quality Meters: An Interdisciplinary College Capstone Project and a First Step Toward Reducing Light Pollution

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Jennifer Birriel

Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Physics, Morehead State University, Morehead, KY 43051

Jaclyn Wheatley

Ashland, Inc., 3499 Blazer Parkway, Lexington, KY 40509

Christine McMichael

School of Public Affairs, Morehead State University, Morehead KY 40351


Received October 30, 2009; revised January 28, 2010; accepted January 29, 2010

The advent of inexpensive, hand-held light meters allows science students the opportunity to document night sky brightness in their local communities as a first step toward ultimately reducing local light pollution. We report our preliminary results of one college student’s interdisciplinary capstone project documenting sky brightness in the local campus community. The student produced two maps of sky brightness readings in the Morehead, Kentucky, area using the Unihedron Sky Quality Meter (SQM) and the Unihedron Sky Quality Meter with Lens (SQM-L). Typical night sky brightness measurements within town ranged from suburban to city on the Bortle Scale of visual brightness. We end with a discussion of opportunities for future student contributions to this project.

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