Star wars

September 4, 1998

Yet more alleged skulduggery in the five-year saga over Cambridge University's plans to floodlight its sports ground against the wishes of local university astronomers - and residents - who insist that the light pollution will destroy their view of the night sky. Protesters have taken exception to photomontages compiled by the university's consultants, W. S. Atkins, which purport to show how the area would look when the disputed lights are erected. Angry astronomer Roger Griffin has complained that the images are misleading, and suffer from the "estate agent's lens effect".

"If you take a picture with a very wide-angle lens," he said, "you obtain the impression of an enormous expanse of foreground while objects at any distance appear very small and in the background." So Dr Griffin has put forward his own version of what he thinks the floodlights will look like, using a point-and-shoot camera and a felt-tip pen. Indeed, Dr Griffin's images are dramatically different from those of the consultants. Sadly, we may never get a true picture until the offending lights are inevitably erected. Cambridge is not sure it is worth the expense of staging a night-time mock-up, using lights on top of cherry pickers - its says such an exercise will cost more than Pounds 10,000.

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