London's astronomers are over the moon at the announcement that the London Borough of Ealing has been declared an International Dark-Sky Reserve.
'London is an international centre of excellence for numerous endeavours,' explained Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. 'It was total madness that Londoners had to travel to the mountains of Chile or to Exmoor, wherever they are, to get a decent view of the night sky.'
UK astronomer Steve Owens, chair of the IDA's Dark Sky Places Development Committee, highlighted the problems that Ealing had overcome to gain the prestigious award. 'To be declared an International Dark-Sky Reserve,' he explained, 'an area must possess an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights. Light pollution from conurbations is the most significant barrier to this aspiration, and areas in London possess quite exceptional challenges in that respect.'
As part of the bid for Reserve status for Ealing, street lights were disabled within a ten mile radius: from Elstree in the north to Surbiton in the south, and from Uxbridge in the west to Islington in the east. In addition, local byelaws were passed to enforce the use of blackout curtains after dark within the Reserve area. Car headlights and other sources of light, necessary to facilitate travel, were required to be red in order to not affect night vision. ARP (Astronomy Reserve Protection) wardens now tour the streets at night to ensure compliance.
'Since the changes, I have been almost constantly working outside at night,' said emergency paramedic and ambulance crewperson, Ursula Major. 'I often point out the constellations to distract RTA and other casualties from their injuries.'
'Sometimes,' admitted Leo Regulus, an unemployed young person from Boston Manor, 'I stop when lootin' from Ealin' Broadway ta wunda at the splenda of the Miwkey Way. Last week,' he continued, 'I even went back ta Argos ta nick a Newtonian reflecta telescope, init.'
'Burning buildings create significant light pollution,' noted captain Hercules Kornephoros of the London Fire Brigade, 'so we are gratified that so few of the marauding gangs commit arson. We can certainly extinguish most of their fires very quickly.'
Astronomers from across the UK have visited Ealing to avail themselves of its crystal clear view of the heavens. 'Many initially complained about mugging and the loss of equipment,' admitted sergeant Izar Bootes from the Metropolitan Police, 'but the ability to repurchase their kit, or better gear, at Leeland Road market on Saturday mornings has more than compensated for such inconveniences.'
'The project has also made London top of the international league for CO2 reduction,' noted UK Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne. 'Central to this government's vision to counteract climate change is a total lack of illumination.'
The UK government has already announced that the UK City of Culture Award will be joined by the UK City of Dimness, and that light reduction awareness will be part of the core curriculum in schools. 'Dimness will remain at the very heart of the UK education system,' proudly boasted Education Secretary, Michael Gove, 'as it has been for many years.'
The quality of the sky over Ealing means that key astronomical features are clearly visible for the first time in over two centuries. The police have been inundated by calls from anxious residents, worried about the appearance of strange white dots in the night sky.
'It looks like that Brian Cox bloke was telling the truth, after all,' said one amazed Northfields resident.
The demolition of most properties in Hanwell in order to build a state of the art observatory has met with little resistance. 'I live in the last remaining house in St Margaret's Road,' said one resident. 'Not only have I got rid of all the infuriating neighbours,' she said, with relief, 'but Brian Cox has agreed to feed the cat when I'm away.'
'This initiative, and others like it, have full government support,' concluded Prime Minister, David Cameron. 'This government is determined to return the United Kingdom to the Dark Ages.'