Does REI Grok Dark Skies?

I was at REI  in Missoula, MT, one day and noticed several lights outside pointed downwards towards some tall grasses planted against the wall.  Intrigued, I returned after dark to take some photos.

REI After Dark
REI After Dark

Notice the downward facing lights along the wall.  The lamp in the parking lot is extremely bright, but faces downward.  The interior is brilliantly lit, but an awning traps most of the upwardly directed light escaping from doors and windows.  The illuminated sign is composed of small lettering and a moderately sized logo (unlike the large, garish, bloated, balloon lettering on the store next door).  This store is not losing much light to the sky above, and as an astronomer, this makes me happy.

The night sky, for most viewers, has lost something.  As cities get bigger, electrical supplies steadier, power cheaper, as lighting technology advances, as particulate matter spews into the air, the night sky has been smothered by the strange glow of light pollution.  Because of its slow, steady progress, each generation is little aware that it has less than the generation before.  The few dozen stars people can see are a mere shadow of the myriad stars, planets, meteors, aurorae, comets, moons, nebulae, and galaxies that are available to the lucky few whose skies are still dark.  For more information on light pollution, including its detrimental affect on wildlife and human health and how to help combat it, visit the International Dark Sky Association.

A few last words.  First, I am a member of REI but am not receiving financial compensation for this post.  Secondly, yes, the sign shows up as a ghost image – inverted green lettering just below the roofline.  This, like the lens flare from the light in the upper right corner, is a camera artifact.

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