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Having always been very keen on astronomy and the beauty of the night skies, when I moved away from the light polluted skies of London to the town of Ross-on-Wye in April 1976 it was a dream come true. At night, I could go out into my garden in Cawdor, look up and, even with the lights in town to my right, I could see the Milky Way, appearing as a milky white ribbon across the sky. At about 2.00 am, the street lights would automatically switch off and the view was even more perfect. Walking a little further north, to Brampton Abbotts gave that same even more perfect view of the night sky during the early evening as the street lights of Ross were not quite as visible there.

Then along came the supermarkets. The bright lights of the then 'Safeway' store took out the view from my garden and the 'Somerfield' depot with its surrounding industrial roads put paid to the perfect view from Brampton Abbotts. From dusk, both of these areas - particularly that which was the 'Somerfield' depot - now pollute the sky with bright sodium lights, which do not go out again until dawn.

I know that Herefordshire Council and the AONB organization all ready have keeping our night skies as clear as possible as part of their agenda for the future and plan to start using night sky friendly lighting, but I am running this article as a kind of reminder, and also in the hope that Ross-on-Wye will not be forgotten in this respect.

I went to Brampton Abbotts on Saturday evening with the intention of shooting a night sky sequence of the stars revolving around Polaris for a future Wye Valley promotion film. My shoot failed - not through the pollution as I expected that, but through cloud. That can happen anywhere and any time and I will have to re-shoot on a cloud free day. I did however manage to get enough shots on Saturday to show just how bad local light pollution from the town of Ross-on-Wye is. The top photo was taken from Brampton Abbotts Church, looking north (the opposite direction to Ross) but the sodium light from the depot is still giving the clouds an orange glow. The second photo is exactly the same subject but it has been filtered to remove the sodium light. See how much better it looks! To a certain degree, the pollution can be filtered photographically but not with the naked eye.

It has been mentioned by some who have all ready seen them that these photos are 'beautiful'. They may look that way as a piece of art but to those who love looking at the night sky and wish to preserve that view for future generations, the reality is that they show up what is in fact an absolute disgrace.

A light polluted view of Polaris (centre) The Plough (left) and Cassiopeia (right).

Exactly the same photo as above but filtered to remove as much sodium light as possible.

The failed Polaris sequence - light pollution removed to a certain extent by a filter.

The constellation of Cassiopeia surrounded by light polluted cloud.

The source of the pollution - Ross-on-Wye.
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