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The Spectrum of the Night Sky Over Kitt Peak: Changes Over Two Decades

Document ID: 
neugent-massey-2011
Year Published: 
2011
Summary: 

New absolute spectrophotometry of the Kitt Peak night sky has been obtained in 2009–2010, which we compare to previously published data obtained in 1988 and 1999, allowing us to look for changes over the past two decades. A comparison of the data between 1988, 1999, and 2009–2010 reveals that the sky brightness of Kitt Peak has stayed remarkably constant over the past 20 yr. Compared to 1988, the 2009–2010 data show no change in the sky brightness at zenith though, as expected, the sky glow has increased most dramatically in the direction of Tucson. Comparison between the 1999 and 2009–2010 data suggests that the sky has actually decreased in brightness compared to 10 yr ago. However, both of the older data sets were taken during times of increased solar activity. When we correct the measurements for the solar irradiance fluctuations, we find that compared to 20 yr ago, the sky is ∼0:1 mag brighter at zenith and ∼0:3 mag brighter toward Tucson. But even after these corrections, we still find that the sky over Kitt Peak is comparable to what it was 10 yr ago at zenith and ∼0:1 mag darker toward Tucson. This suggests that the strengthened lighting ordinances established by the city of Tucson and Pima County in the early 2000s have been quite effective.With some care, the Kitt Peak night sky will remain this dark many years into the future.

Reference Information: 

Neugent, K.F., and P. Massey. 2011. The spectrum of the night sky over Kitt Peak: Changes over two decades. Astronomical Society of the Pacific 122:1246–1253.

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The information appearing on this Web site is for general informational purposes only. Every effort is made to provide accurate and useful information.
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