We enter the new year 2009, which is the International Astonomy Year, with good news coming from Palowice – a place near Żory (Silesian Voivodeship). Thanks to the efforts of "O.M. Venatorae Astrum", a group of astronomy enthusiasts, and the POLARIS-OPP Association, it was possible to close the old year with completing the replacement of street lamp fittings (fixtures) with ones that protect the nocturnal sky from artificial light pollution. Palowice was thereby registered as area CN-002 – yet another example of how to effectively protect the dark sky for future astronomical observations.

Efforts to replace the street lamp fittings had already began in the beginning of 2008, when the  "O.M. Venatorae Astrum" group launched an observatory project that was aimed at popularization of practical astronomy among the inhabitants of the area and the youth (especially teens from the former “PGR” State Farms territories). The project was coordinated by Michał Goraus, a meteor observer of many years’, the group activities were supported by the POLARIS – OPP Association.

During the autumn ENEGETAB 2008 fair in Bielsko-Biała cooperation was established with a few lighting companies. The cooperation was aimed at selecting suitable street lamp fittings that could be used in the future in the dark sky reserves in Poland.

 Julia Romanowska’s participation in the 9th Dark Sky Symposium in Vienna proved very useful, as well. Being a representative of Dark Sky Poland, she passed on some useful advice and information about Polish branches of lighting companies that presented their products in Austria. Based on the information, a list of different street lamp fittings manufactured by various producers was compiled.
It soon turned out that thanks to the goodwill of the Czerwionka-Leszczyny municipality officials and the Vattenfall company from Gliwice, Palowice will be the first “dark sky proving ground” of this sort.

Up until now, old fittings from the 70ties (commonly known as „coffins”) with inefficient light sources of mercury type, as well as several new common fittings like Philips’ Malaga 2 equiped with high-pressure sodium vapor light bulbs (also in convex lampshades) were used on the spot. Their location on the mounting pole turned out to be an additional problem, as they were mounted at different hights, the jibs being fixed even at 80 degree angles towards the ground.

After getting written permission from the municipality, town council and the owner of the lighting infrastructure, replacement of the old and/or unsuitable lamp fittings on Wiejska and Zazdrosna steets in Palowice began.
One of the observatory spots (no. 26) located in the close vicinity of the forementioned streets, where usually sky demonstrations and observations are being held, was put “under protection”. This particular spot in Palowice was chosen with good reason. It is surrounded by vast forest territories and empty fields where artificial light does not reach.
 
 
The Vattenfall company not only took care of the mounting itself, but the workers also selected suitable jibs, heights and set the fittings at a proper angle towards the ground (below the horizon line). The inhabitants of Palowice showed great interest in the matter, making remarks about the former lighting system.
The information will be of use while the public report is being prepared for the Dark Sky Program. The task was undertaken by the POLARIS – OPP coordinators, who gave out leaflets and brochures covering the problem of artificial light pollution of the dark sky.

 A major difference in the arrangement of the lamps could be noticed right after the mounting works had finished. To the project executors’ surprise, repetitive comments could be heard from the inhabitants in the daytime such as “At last, the outdoor lamps will not shine at the windows”. However, the most awaited moment arrived at dusk, when comparing the lighting was made possible. Most new fittings served their purpose by not emitting redundant light into the atmosphere. This could be observed moments later, when night had fallen over Palowice.
Without much effort , from the observatory spot no. 26 you could see the stars that were right above the fittings. However, to fully check the mounted fittings, it is necessary to wait until the spring at the latest, when the snow reflecting the artificial light melts.

At the end of the last day of mounting the fittings (the 30th of December 2008) the inhabitants of Palowice could admire a beautiful view of Venus accompanied by the Moon, which additionally provoked them to pay attention to the problems concerning dark sky protection.
 
 
In foreign articles you can often find information on proper street lamp fittings, they also include photographs taken at night serving as examples. However, it is difficult to find such applications in Poland, which may change thanks to the project. At present, analyses of the modernized street lighting will start with reference to using specific fittings to protect the dark sky. Companies like Thorn, Rosa, ES-System, Philips, ELGO-Brilux, Schroeder and others joined the project.

We will inform you about the results on the Dark Sky Program’s website.
In the meanwhile, we certainly add Palowice to the Dark Sky list under area CN-002.

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