New Planetarium Show In the Works: “Losing the Dark”

One frame from a time-lapse sequence shot in Chicago by Dome3D, showing light pollution at ground level. (c) 2012 DOME3D

A simulated depiction of a majestic star-filled night sky is seen daily at 1,600 planetariums nationwide. This results in a total viewing audience exceeding 30 million annually. Yet many in the audiences do not believe what they are seeing is real because it looks so drastically different from the night sky in their own backyards. With the release of “Losing the Dark” each of these planetariums will have the opportunity to not only introduce more than 30 million people to the reality of the disappearing night sky, but also to explain the causes and what each person in the audience can do about it.

“Losing the Dark” is being created by Loch Ness Productions in cooperation with Adler Planetarium in Chicago with the direction of the International Dark-Sky Association’s Education Committee, headed by Dr. Constance Walker. Connie is senior scienceeducation specialist of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and also a member of IDA’s board of directors.

When completed, the show will be a six- to seven-minute short, full-dome planetarium experience shown at the beginning of planetarium feature shows. When the project is fully funded, planetariums nationwide will be supplied with a free copy of the film. Families, school groups, and any attendee coming in to see “the night sky” for the first time will not only be amazed by the experience, but will also realize the possibilities for the night sky outside of the dome.

The piece defines the problems with light pollution, its effects on life, and three ways in which people can implement “wise lighting” practices to mitigate light pollution.

“Losing the Dark” uses clear narration and dramatic, immersive visuals to show how the sky glow from cities and towns has encroached even into remote areas of wilderness. It details how this luminous fog of artificial light disrupts the circadian cycles of plants, animals, and humans; wastes energy; contributes to air pollution and global climate change; and deprives everyone of the night sky’s true beauty. A trip to the planetarium now becomes more than a day to learn about the night sky, it becomes a mission to save it.

Planetariums will not be the only venue for this film. IDA will contract to produce a traditional “flatscreen” version of the Public Service Announcement (PSA). This will allow its broadcast and viewing in traditional outlets like classrooms, museum kiosks, YouTube and iTunes downloads, and for dark sky advocates to use it in their own presentations. The film will also be translated into many languages to make it accessible internationally.

IDA is currently looking for donations to finish this important work and will match your donation up to $5,000. To help support this project or help raise funds for it, please contact Scott Kardel at The show was premiered in August at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Beijing.

Frame from a time-lapse sequence in Chicago by Dome3D, showing light pollution at ground level. © 2012 DOME3D

The view of light pollution as seen from the International Space Station. © 2012 Loch Ness Productions


Documentary: The City Dark

In this short outtake of Ian Cheney’s documentary The City Dark, Ian looks locally at how artificial lighting, on the beaches of Palm Beach county, affects sea turtles. He also interviews Dr. Kirt Rusenko, the marine conservationist of the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, Florida.

Ian’s documentary blends a humorous, searching narrative with poetic footage of the night sky, provides a fascinating introduction to the science of the dark, explores our relationship to the stars and asks what is lost in the glare of city lights?

Winner, Best Score/Music Award, 2011 SXSW Film Festival. Produced in association with American Documentary | POV. 

Watch The City Dark: How Lights Can Confuse Baby Turtles on PBS. See more from POV.

NOTE: Public Broadcasting Station’s P.O.V. will show Ian Cheney’s The City Dark – July 5th,

After having evolved to go toward the brightest sky (which was naturally over the ocean due to reflecting starlight) and after hatching, turtle hatchlings now struggle to make it to the ocean because the glow from electric lights is much stronger.

Check out the local PBS POV schedules for the full documentary:

WPBT airs POV: The City Dark on Thursday, July 5, 11:00pm.

WXEL airs POV: The City Dark Thursday, July 5, 10:00pm & Friday, July 6, 2:00am.

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