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February 16 – Dark Skies Event

Dark Wight skies, Isle of Wight

On Monday February 16, the Isle of Wight Observatory is holding a day event to introduce visitors to the world of astronomy. You can use a range of telescopes to see the stars, including the Orion Nebula, which is in the mid southern sky during February evenings, and join discussions about dark skies and their benefits for wildlife such as bats and hedgehogs.

Wight AONB (01983 823855; aonb.org.uk).

No booking needed, just turn up.

The event lasts from 6pm to 10pm and admission is free.

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IW Planning Applications

There are a couple of Island development plans which should concern anyone interested in astronomy:

  1. Atherfield, the old holiday camp
  2. Navitus Bay, an offshore windfarm

1 – Atherfield

The Atherfield development is detailed on the IW Council Website here. There’s a lot to read but in essence, the plan seeks permission to build 95 holiday units and a clubhouse on the site of the old, derelict, holiday camp.

Old Chalets

Officially I suspect this is considered a brown field although it is now in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Atherfield is also in one of the darkest areas on the Island and is a magnet to astronomers from all over the UK.

The development plan mentions the dark skies but, unfortunately, then continues to ignore the impact of the proposed increase in lighting. Comments along the lines of “the development will have a negative benefit on light pollution…” are closely followed by “…this doesn’t really matter as nobody goes there at night.”

All a bit strange, as it seems obvious to me that the area is regularly used by astronomers and even the developers agree on the area’s dark sky status as they draw attention to that fact in their submission, using it as a reason for the development in the first place.

It’s a tricky one as I am sure the development could be made into a model of good lighting which would then have little or no impact on the area. Unfortunately, my first reading of the documents leads me to suspect the developers are nodding in the direction of the AONB and astronomers without committing any resources to achieve an excellent solution.

I need to reread the entire application before making any official comment to the Planning Department. If you have an hour or so, please have a read as well and feel free to leave any comments here.

2 – Navitus Bay

You may have already read about this proposal in the County Press. It plans to build an offshore wind park comprising perhaps 218, 200m, turbines about 8.6 miles of the south west coast of the Island. There’s a lot more detail here.

Again there’s a lot of information to absorb but perhaps most interesting at first is the lack of mention of light pollution! Take a look at this page: http://www.navitusbaywindpark.co.uk/isle-wight, doesn’t look too bad according to the mock daytime views, yes it’s big but that’s about all, but where are the night photos?

Each turbine will have a red aircraft warning light on top and then white, green and red shipping navigation lights nearer the base. In addition there will be two offshore substations which, I am told, will be fully lit 24/7.

The directional properties of the lights needs explaining in more detail but I can see no need for full substation lights at night as according to Wikipedia:

FANUC, the Japanese robotics company, has been operating a “lights out” factory for robots since 2001. “Robots are building other robots at a rate of about 50 per 24-hour shift and can run unsupervised for as long as 30 days at a time. “Not only is it lights-out,” says Fanuc vice president Gary Zywiol, “we turn off the air conditioning and heat too.”

In the Netherlands, Philips uses lights-out manufacturing to produce electric razors, with 128 robots from Adept Technology. The only humans are nine quality assurance workers at the end of the manufacturing process.

Again, I think I should study the proposal again before making my mind up.

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