Say No to the Glow: Using NASA and NOAA’s Suomi NPP Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite to Model Artificial Sky Brightness

This article is a part of the NASA DEVELOP’s Summer 2017 Virtual Poster Session. For more articles like these, click here

Project Team: Wyoming Cross-Cutting II
Team Location: Wise County & City of Norton Clerk of Court’s Office – Wise, Virginia
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Authors:
Veronica Warda
Ryan Avery
Steven Chao
Stanley Yu

Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. L. DeWayne Cecil (NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Science & Technology)
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center)
Bob VanGundy (The University of Virginia’s College at Wise)

Past or Other Contributors:
Benjamin Marcovitz
Aubrey Hilte
Christine Stevens
Eric White

Artificial Skyglow Map for regions surrounding Grand Teton National Park, generated from a nine-month composite VIIRS image. Teton Range, Wyoming, displayed at the bottom. Image Credit: Wyoming Cross-Cutting II Team

Abstract:
As more outdoor lighting is installed for safety and development, light pollution has become a growing problem that threatens the quality of life for humans and wildlife. The onset of light pollution in cities and dark sky areas hinders humans from seeing the stars and the Milky Way and has been linked to health disorders in humans and behavioral changes in flora and fauna. Park officials at Grand Teton National Park are concerned about light pollution’s impacts on visitor experience and the environment. Thus, in collaboration with the National Park Service and Wyoming Stargazing, our team created the Skyglow Estimation Toolbox (SET), a Python program that calculates images of artificial sky glow from the vantage point of a viewer on the ground. SET processes visible light radiance imagery collected by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Day/Night Band. By processing the pixel values in Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) imagery with convolution, the Toolbox applies Cinzano (2001) and Garstang’s (1989) model of light propagation to create artificial skyglow maps to measure skyglow at a user-supplied viewing angle and location. We applied this program to a 300 km square buffer of our study area, Grand Teton National Park, and created multi-annual composites of sky glow over the summer months (July, August, and September) of 2014, 2015, and 2016. With further development and model validation, SET will help government officials and communities quantify the impact of light sources to their night skies and will help inform decisions regarding lighting ordinances in nearby Teton County.

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