Town Bans Lights to Save Milky Way

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2008 5:33 AM CST
Astronomers observe the night sky.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Stargazing is more than an idle pleasure on Mount Desert Island, Maine. It's also a tourist attraction protected by law. Voters on the island recently banned new outdoor lights that aim upwards and contribute to obstructing the island's rare view of the naked Milky Way. The goal is to draw tourists who have never seen the night sky unhindered by city lights, but some locals are seeing red over the new ordinance, the Boston Globe reports.

A stipulation restricting "light trespassing" angers some, who say neighbors should handle such disputes personally. Others worry that a lack of light could spur thefts, injuries, and lawsuits. But businesses have 10 years to comply, and are assured there will be no Orwellian "light police," one official said. The upside is clear: Visitors will witness "the full specter of the Milky Way" that "a generation of children have never seen," a local astronomer said. (Read more Maine stories.)