Perennial Moonlight

Jul 10 2011 @ 9:05pm

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by Zoë Pollock

Hal Espen loathes the sodium-vapor streetlights that dominate most of our landscape today:

The jaundiced weirdness of sodium light has become a vexing challenge to photographers (one filmmaker, Tenolian Bell, called it “the ugliest light known to the cinematographer”); movie cameras simulate its color by using a gel filter named Bastard Amber. Significantly, retailers have avoided inflicting the unpleasantness of sodium lights on their customers—most commercial parking lots and shopping malls use the costlier white metal halide lights.

But that all may change soon:

In the next decade, a large percentage of America’s 37 million streetlights will be equipped with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, and other kinds of solid-state lighting. Once again, energy-saving is the driving force. … Unlike sodium lights, LEDs and other next-generation lights can be tuned to various colors, easily dimmed, arranged into luminous surfaces and shapes, and turned on and off instantly.

(Photo of "Sodium Vapor Glory" by Flickr user Jason A. Samfield)