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Lighting change earns praise from group, astronomers

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Lighting change earns praise from group, astronomers

By Nate Searing


COCHISE COUNTY -- To help shield local residents from unnecessary light and preserve the night sky for amateur and professional astronomers, the U.S. Border Patrol revamped a series of its light poles along the border near Naco.

Its earnest work and responsiveness to local residents complaining about the light pollution led a Tucson-based astronomy organization to present the government agency with an award.

In all, the Border Patrol retrofitted 19 light poles stretching west from the Naco Port of Entry along the border with light-shields, said Frank Amarillas, a spokesman for the agency's Tucson Sector.

Each pole is fitted with three bulbs that were lowered by 45 degrees and reduced in intensity to control their output.

None of the changes made to the border lights has affected Border Patrol's efficiency or effectiveness in monitoring the border region.

The old lights were initially installed in June 2002, with almost immediate complaints about too much light coming from neighbors, said Doug Snyder, an amateur astronomer living in Palominas.

"Naco became lit up like Las Vegas," Snyder said. "People could see (the lights) from as far as 20 miles away."

Snyder worked directly with the Border Patrol's Naco station to find ways to control the lights' output.

The vice president of the Huachuca Astronomy Club, Snyder also fielded complaints about the lights from dozens of amateur astronomers from as far away as Sierra Vista.

To calm the outpouring of complaints against the new lighting system, retrofitting work began within a month of the system's installation and was completed in November 2002 with a considerable reduction of light leakage from the border lights, Snyder said.

Like other residents with telescopes or amateur observatories rendered useless by the light, Snyder was able to again operate the observatory at his Palominas home.

"Its been a lifesaver to have such a quick response from Border Patrol," Snyder said.

For its efforts, the Border Patrol will receive the Excellence in Outdoor Lighting Award from the Southern Arizona International Dark-Sky Association today.

The awards ceremony was to take place in Sonoita, but was moved to Tucson last week to better accommodate presenters in the city.

Awards are given out about once a month through the association to reward individuals, businesses and government entities that work to promote dark skies and help amateur and professional observatories by limiting their light output.

"We're always happy to see a group as large as (the Border Patrol) taking the initiative to keep the night sky pristine," SA-IDA Chairman John Polacheck said Monday.

REPORTER Nate Searing



I read this and thought of you.

You and your telescope can come on down and stargaze.

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Geez, I wish more cities would install full-cutoff light fixtures. That light belongs on the ground, not wasted up in the sky. It's a wonder that any kids today know what stars look like...

The fool hath said in his heart, "PFAL is the Word of God..."

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