AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 28 Astronomical Observatories
Poster, Monday, 9:20am-7:00pm, January 9, 2006, Exhibit Hall

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[28.06] Is Chile Complying with its Light Pollution Regulations? A Status Report

M.G. Smith (AURA-O/NOAO/CTIO), P. Sanhueza (OPCC, Chile), H.E. Schwarz, A.R. Walker (NOAO/CTIO)

Monte Patria is the first Municipality in Chile to comply fully with Supreme Decree 686, the Chilean, environmentally-based legislation governing exterior lighting in Northern Chile - the "norma luminica". "Before" and "after" photographs of Monte Patria were published in last June's issue of "Physics Today", in the context of the global effort to control light pollution.

Some photographs of other Chilean towns have been obtained for this poster and for display at the International Dark Sky Association's stand at this meeting. Highlights include detailed midnight and dawn panoramas taken by us during October, 2005 - the month in which the six-year "grace period" for all external lighting in northern Chile's astronomically-sensitive 2nd, 3rd and 4th Regions was supposed to come into full compliance.

It is clear that significant progress is being made. The chief obstacle has been financial. Large-scale changeout of street lighting requires an outlay of many millions of dollars from cash-strapped municipalities. Chile's central government has moved in to provide financing at the 80-100/% level in many cases. Once Chile's congressional elections are over, we will be able to judge the political will to complete the changeover.

Various large mining operations are currently engaged in major lighting changeovers; such changes are especially important in the various mines that are directly visible from existing major observatories in Northern Chile.

The importance to astronomy is that full compliance with DS686 will, on average, extend the potential useful life of all the major optical observatories in Northern Chile by several decades.

Funding for the Office for the Protection of the Quality of the Skies of Chile (OPCC) is provided by the Chilean National Environment Committee (CONAMA), NOAO, Gemini, ESO and the Las Campanas Observatory of the Carnegie Institute of Washington.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: msmith@ctio.noao.edu

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