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Astronomers Oppose Prison’s Light

June 29, 1999

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. (AP) _ Voters on Tuesday decided the fate of a prison project that some astronomers say will pollute the sky with light and spoil the view of the heavens from an 80-year-old observatory.

``This is the mother of observatories for amateur telescoping,″ said Maryann Arrien, president of Springfield Telescope Makers, which maintains the hilltop observatory three miles from the proposed 350-bed state prison.

In exchange for accepting the prison, Springfield would get about $7 million in community improvements. Supporters said the town, which is in southeastern Vermont on the New Hampshire line and has a population of about 10,000, needs the help and the 160 jobs the prison would bring.

The observatory is a national landmark known as Stellafane _ Latin for ``Shrine to the Stars.″ It is the site of a conference that attracts more than 2,000 amateur astronomers every summer.

Ms. Arrien’s group collected 700 signatures on a petition against the prison.

State officials said the prison lights would not ruin star viewing and noted there are small towns that are closer to the observatory than the prison would be.

Ms. Arrien said she fears the prison’s lights would have a much greater effect because they would stay on all night, while lights from the towns usually go off.

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