A recent article in The Guardian warned of the light pollution being emitted by satellites such as Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites. While providing all kinds of benefits to mankind, these satellites and some others allegedly emit too much light. The light emitted is light pollution and it brightens the night sky.
Light pollution is an issue and losing dark skies is a very real issue. The question is, in world that knows very little and cares even less about dark sky issues, do we start pushing dark sky initiatives in space, on Earth, or both?
What is light pollution and who cares?
Light pollution comes in many forms from light that trespasses from one property to another, to light that goes up and stops people and and wildlife from being able to see the night sky. The International Dark Sky Association documents many forms of light pollution, the effects of light pollution, and ways we can mitigate light pollution.
What is dark sky lighting, at least here on Earth?
Dark sky compliant lighting is LED light fixtures that lights up what needs to be illuminated without causing uplight that reduces our ability to see the night sky.
While I don’t personally know much about satellites causing light or the value the satellites provide, v. the cost to society via a less dark sky, I do agree that we need to protect our skies from light pollution. More of an effort needs to be made by communities around the world to become dark sky communities. Becoming a dark sky community is a local way to start preserving the dark sky for nature, our wellbeing, and the benefit of future generations.
While it’s well-known that LED lighting is cost- and energy-efficient, some British stable owners observe that LEDs may also improve the physical health and well-being of their racehorses, too.
Lighting Decisions for Horse Facilities
Farmers and riders have long experimented with horse barn lighting options. There are obviously a number of requirements for these kinds of lamps—not only do they have to provide high-quality light, but they must be watertight and extremely corrosion-resistant. While the T5HO vapor-tight high bay fixtures are often recommended for horse barn lighting, it may be time to consider a new-technology upgrade.
Keith Foster, who owns Exhibition Seeds, and Stephen Fry, of HydroGarden, suggested full-spectrum LED lights. They recommended the lights be put into two horse stalls at Phil Kirby’s Sharpehill Stables in North Yorkshire, England, and Kirby agreed. Kirby installed the LEDs in two of his horse stalls, leaving them on from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM each day for six weeks. They haven’t looked back since.
LED Success in the Stable
After just two weeks, both horses required an increase in daily food rations, and Kirby noticed clear improvements in each horse’s skin, muscle tone, appearance, and gallop. Kirby told HydroGarden that the two horses with LED lights in their stalls performed better than the other horses relying on what little natural light was available.
The Science Behind LED Effectiveness
LED lights promote the release of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which carries energy to cells. When the ATP level of each horse was increased, cells could more efficiently use nutrients and eliminate waste. This benefited every aspect of each horse’s health. Similar studies in Italy and Singapore found that LED lights can improve the body’s ability to heal muscle strains and wounds, too.
Increasing LED Lighting During the Winter
Unfortunately, Kirby had to stop the LED trial short when summer approached, as the horses needed softer ground for running than what was available in the region. Kirby plans to add the LED lights to two additional stalls in the coming fall to give the horses the full effect of the lighting through the winter months, when natural light is harder to provide. He also plans to use the lights from October to March on foals and yearlings with the hope that the young horses will achieve better size.
Human Applications of LEDs
Given how well the racehorses responded to the lights, it isn’t too surprising that humans can benefit from LEDs as well. Not only have LED “tail lights” been utilized to increase the safety of horses and their riders, LEDs help regulate our circadian rhythms, keeping us and our horses in competitive, performance-ready condition.
Lighting the Way to a Healthier Future
We’ve only just begun to explore the benefits of LED lights, but we expect them to work just as well for horses as they do for humans. I have a feeling the equestrian community will soon see that LEDs are an easy way to help their horses (and save owners some money, too).
Would You Bet On It?
Do you believe in the possibilities of LEDs as much as I do? Would you be more willing to bet on a horse that had been exposed to LED barn lighting?
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Studies about lighting have traditionally focused on issues such as energy use, cost, and visibility. Only recently have we begun to understand the effect of lighting on the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of humankind. The development of lighting technology has exposed humans to unnatural light patterns that interrupt our circadian rhythm (sleeping patterns) and can negatively affect our moods and cognitive abilities.
Big Data Comes to Light Science
While there have been several studies conducted on human-centric lighting (HCL), they have mostly taken place on a small scale. Now researchers are expanding the scope of their observations and have been collecting large amounts of data that can actually quantify the benefits of HCL in environments such as schools, factories, and hospitals.
The lighting industry in Europe has been the first to sponsor this research. Recent studies by LightingEurope, AT Kearney, and the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI) are the first to provide quantitative data on HCL. For example, researchers have analyzed how upgrading old fixtures to HCL can affect worker productivity and electrical costs. They have also reviewed how the use of HCL in medical facilities has increased patient well-being and decreased insurance expenditures.
New Technology Allows for Varied Applications
The new research is assisted by improvements in lighting technology. The development of LED lighting technology enables control over the intensity and color of light. Thanks to digital lighting with LED, wireless connectivity is also possible, which can give individuals the power to set their own light levels, even in crowded settings like an office. Workers can control lighting from a smartphone app to provide light only where it is needed and desired.
Adaptive lighting technology also allows for easier data extraction; fixtures can be equipped with sensors that monitor a room’s occupancy, temperature, humidity, and more. In hospitals, HCL provides increased well-being in patients and new ways to provide optimum care.
HCL to Increase Market Penetration
As the benefits of HCL are discovered and the applicable technologies are perfected, we can expect to see an increased market share for human-centric lighting products. The studies from Europe predict that in the next five years, HCL will have the greatest market penetration in healthcare facilities, followed by offices and schools. Residential use will likely lag behind in the near future.
It was only at the beginning of this century that we started to learn about the benefits of HCL. With new technology and research to help us understand the impact of HCL, we may soon see its large-scale benefits.