Proposed changes to keep stars visible over Tucson

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- It's one of Tucson's natural attractions, the twinkling stars and clear skies that greet us most nights of the year.

And it's also drawn an astronomy industry worth millions.

But as more people come to the area, the skies are not as dark as astronomers say they need.

Tuesday the city will take a look at a few changes, and if those changes are approved, the sky over Tucson will be darker.  But it might not be as bad as you think.

One of the key changes affects every new street light, requiring the fixture on the top to aim the light down so you get darker skies and brighter streets.

Hyman Kaplan with the Outdoor Lighting Code Committee has highlighted three ways the city can turn down the light.

The move would improve astronomy business which is said to be a $250 million a year industry in Tucson.

"One, a reduction in some of the allowed lumens per acre just because more efficient lighting is coming out," said Hyman Kaplan.

Kaplan says new technology should maintain the level of light we already see in Tucson.

Another key change affects street light design.

"If you have a light fixture here the light is down where it belongs instead of going up into the night time sky," said Kaplan.

Tucson already has some lamps pointing to the ground.

"People can have better views of the night sky both for astronomy and star gazers and also to control energy use," said Scott Kardel from the International Dark Sky Association.

The International Dark Sky Association works with astronomy interests to review lighting practices.

"A telescope is actually much more sensitive than our eye is so making the sky brighter, maybe they're going to miss the asteroid that will be heading to earth one day," Kardel said.

Some Tucson motorists don't want too much darkness.

"You know if it gets out of control where we can't really see where we're going, if it gets in the way of safety, but I don't think that would happen,"said a Tucson motorist.

Another motorist would like to see street lighting increase, "I'd like to have more light on the smaller streets, like on Park.  There's no lights at all down Park."

Proposed changes would only affect new street lamps, buildings and housing developments.