Protecting the Astronomers’ Dark Skies

by | Apr 25, 2019 | Electrical Components & Lighting, Industry, Oil & Gas | 0 comments

McDonald Observatory in West Texas

“The 36″ atop Mt. Locke at the McDonald Observatory, Texas.” by Zereshk is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The history of McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas dates back to the 1920s. The location was ideal due to:

…some of the darkest night skies in the continental United States.

It also happens to be located not too far from one of the world’s most massive oil & gas producing regions, the Permian Basin.

A Dallas News article, Oil vs. astronomy: The race to protect the night sky in West Texas, highlights the challenge of this coexistence.

Seeking to be good neighbors:

A collaboration between the petroleum industry and the observatory — home of North America’s largest telescope — appears to have made progress in slowing the creeping light pollution.

I connected with Emerson’s Ellen Helm to learn about the background of this collaboration and the role technology plays in helping address this challenge.

In 2011, the Texas legislature passed a bill requiring communities within 57 miles of the McDonald Observatory to regulate outdoor lighting. Due to this legislation and the desire to work together on a solution, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA), McDonald Observatory, and other members of the oil and gas industry have developed recommended lighting practices for lighting in the Permian Basin.

The recommended practice calls for minimizing the number of lights and shielding the lights to eliminate uplight and light spill wherever possible. One of the major oil & gas producers implemented the recommended practices in its 350,000+ acre discovery—the field closest to the observatory.

Generation 2 Areamaster LED Floodlight

Generation 2 Areamaster LED Floodlight with visor to eliminate uplight

Ellen noted that over 300 Emerson Generation 2 Areamaster LED Floodlights were used on three booster stations in 2018. These Areamaster Floodlights were provided with visors to prevent uplight and comply with the ordinance. The floodlights are used throughout the facility to provide illumination for the whole facility with a minimal number of lights. Minimizing the total numbers of lights used is one of the objectives stated in the best practices.

The Appleton brand LED lighting offers a selection of products that comply with the Permian Basin Lighting Ordinances. Warm color temperature LEDs (3000K CCT) reduce environmental impact and circadian disruption and visors are available to provide full (90°) cutoff.

These LED floodlights are rugged, corrosion-resistant and certified for Class I, Division 2, Class II, and ATEX/IECEx Zone 2, 22 hazardous locations and rated for use in marine and wet locations to provide versatile floodlighting solutions.

Visit the Appleton Lighting section on to learn more about these LED floodlights and other industrial lighting solutions for your facilities. You can also connect and interact with other lighting experts in the Electrical Components & Lighting group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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