AHS sophomores sponsor Lights Out Aspen project to help reduce light pollution and observe an astronomical event


Photo courtesy of The Limelight Hotel website

Time lapse photo of starry night sky over Maroon Bells in Aspen. Because there is little light pollution at the Bells, stars are very visible.

On April 22nd, the City of Aspen and its residents will participate in the Lights Out event, organized by the Astronomy Club and AHS freshman Tessa Guilander and Brooke O’Sullivan. The event is an observation of the annual Lyrid meteor shower and, coincidently, Earth Day. Aspen businesses, residents, and visitors will be encouraged to turn out all of their light from 9:00-10:00 pm on April 22nd. The city of Aspen has agreed to turn out lights at parks, city buildings, and even street lamps in some parts of the city taking into account safety concerns.
Guilander and O’Sullivan brought the idea to the City Council in early February with the idea of celebrating an astronomical event and taking a stand against light pollution. During the meteor shower, Earth will be passing through the tail of the comet 1861 GI Thatcher. Astrologists predict that there will be about 20 shooting stars and 100 meteors per hour.
O’Sullivan has always had a passion for reducing light pollution and preserving the sight of the stars for future generations.
“[From this project] I hope that we bring more attention to light pollution and its effects as well as a change in the city’s lighting fixtures,” O’Sullivan said.
Usually light pollution greatly reduces the visibility of stars; without light pollution 2,500-5,000 stars are visible, while only 200-300 are visible to the naked eye usually. The project will substantially benefit the environment despite it only being an hour long event. In Pitkin County, 70% of the greenhouse gas emission comes from powering buildings. If every resident participated in the Lights Out event, 44 tons of carbon dioxide will be saved from the atmosphere.
Guilander loves the natural beauty of the stars and feels that the night sky needs to be preserved.
“I think this project is important because it brings awareness to the issue in a unique way. I think of it [the project] like giving a baby a piece of candy because once it is finished they just want more. That is my hope for Pitkin County. I hope as a community we can realize the beauty of the natural world and the reason we should be protecting it and continue to make changes,” Guilander said.