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Dim It Event Plans Longer City Blackout

Tiffany Lam, SCMP – Updated on Feb 16, 2009

Those who scoff at the idea of spotting constellations from light-washed Victoria Harbour may be proved wrong on the city’s biggest lights-out night in June, a green group said yesterday. Last year’s Dim It campaign, the largest lights-out event in Hong Kong with more than 140 landmark buildings participating, would be repeated with redoubled vigour on June 21, Friends of the Earth said.

Besides stretching the event to two hours, the green group will also invite astronomy clubs to provide telescopes to the public on the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Constellations such as Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius and Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) – usually washed out by the city’s light pollution – were visible from both banks of Victoria Harbour when the lights went off for an hour last year, dimming the harbour by 32 per cent, Friends of the Earth said.

“We estimate that more than 200 buildings will participate this year, and we hope more homes will turn off their lights too,” group director Edwin Lau Che-feng said.

“It’s a great feeling to witness the familiar constellations emerging when you can only see a few stars usually,”Leung Kam-cheung, head of International Year of Astronomy 2009 Hong Kong League, said.

Mr Leung appealed for more enthusiasts to bring out their star-gazing gear on that night to give people a chance to see the stars. The league’s last sidewalk event attracted up to 10,000 star-gazers and more than 80 telescopes, he said.

More lights turned off, for a longer period, should increase the visibility of stars this year, although visibility also depended on air pollution and weather conditions, Mr Lau said.

This year’s Dim It event coincides with the summer solstice, the longest day in the year. “It is a time when energy use peaks, and it gives Hong Kong citizens a time to rethink [their lifestyle],” he said.

He urged the government to speed up light-pollution legislation.

Friends of the Earth urged companies that took part last year, turning off their billboard and building lighting, to do so again and invited more corporations to join this year.

One and Two IFC, Bank of China Tower and the Legislative Council building all participated last year.

The nightly Symphony of Lights show, hailed as the world’s largest by Guinness World Records, will halt for Dim It, said Mr Lau, who described the blackout as an “alternative tourist experience”.

The sidewalk star-gazing event on the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade will be enlivened by photographic exhibitions and live performances, and is expected to draw up to 10,000 people. Dim It will start at 8pm.

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