There’s been a few stories today in main stream media about the light pollution affecting Siding Spring Observatory and steps to legislate for local lighting requirement changes; but the full story is not being told. Earlier this month an observer at Siding Spring noticed in a piece of equipment he was using, a new large bright spot on the horizon. Bright enough to look like Venus rising (that’s very bright – often mistaken for a UFO). This sighting was confirmed by other cameras at Siding Spring. The spot was stationary and was visible all night. and still is.
The very bright spot tuned out to be the Bibblewindi CSG mine burning off excess methane gas – it’s called flaring. This 30m high flare burns day and night, even on total fire ban days, and is absolutely legal because of state laws allowing industries like CSG mines to do so. The excess methane is being burned off because of equipment maintenance happening elsewhere have meant the gas being forced up from underground cannot be transported or piped elsewhere for treatment. So they burn it. Breakdowns are common in CSG mining and flaring is even more common. In Sydney flares are disguised by hiding them inside shipping containers so residents are not alarmed by a large flame lighting up their neighbourhood – in the Pilliga they burn freely out in the open.
So why isn’t this huge light pollution problem being spoken about in the news papers today along with the need for sports grounds and housing to dim their lighting? Politics. CSG Mining and Astronomy come under the same federal government department – The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Employees of the AAO cannot be publicly pointing out issues with another division of their federal government department for fear it may effect funding or jobs. This has lead to a deafening silence from the observatory about one of their largest threats to the dark skies in the area.
To express your opinion about the light pollution caused by CSG on Siding Spring Observatory send an email to the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science – Christopher Pyne