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VALE - Reg Wilson

Reg R. Wilson, 14 Feb 1930 – 25 Jan 2022

A personal appreciation by Fred Watson AM, Astronomer-at-Large, Australian Government

It was with great sadness that I learned recently of the passing of Mr Reg Wilson, founder and CEO of independent lighting consultants Lighting Analysis & Design. I worked closely with Reg for more than 20 years, and he was my mentor on dark skies and good outdoor lighting.

Reg’s advocacy for good lighting stretches back to the 1970s, well before his association with the professional astronomical community. He was justly proud of a newspaper cutting dating from that early period which introduced his work with the headline ‘Now it’s light pollution!’

In the 1990s, Reg acted as a consultant to the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics regarding urban development at the base of Mount Stromlo, ACT, where its Canberra observatory is located. Then, in 1999, he was co-opted onto a new committee tasked with upgrading outdated NSW state legislation to protect the national optical observatory at Siding Spring near Coonabarabran, also operated by the ANU. As Astronomer-in-Charge of the then Australian Astronomical Observatory (also at Siding Spring), I was chair of the committee.

Thus began a long period of collaboration in which Reg brought his expertise not only to the revision of the legislation, but to wider education and advocacy on good lighting, and involvement in the planning of any infrastructure with the potential to affect Siding Spring’s pristine night sky.

The revised NSW legislation was enacted in 2016, mandating conditions on lighting within a 200km radius centred on the Observatory. A spin-off instigated by Reg was the recognition by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) of the adjacent Warrumbungle National Park as Australia’s first Dark Sky Park.

Much of the significant body of work involved in that IDA application was carried out by my wife, Marnie Ogg, who subsequently went on to found the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance (ADSA). As a not-for-profit education and advocacy body whose area of interest extends well beyond astronomy to broader environmental issues, the Alliance is an unforeseen but welcome outcome of Reg’s influence. It has also played an advisory role in the increasing number of IDA-recognised dark sky places in Australia,

While Reg was staunchly defensive of dark skies, his background as a lighting engineer with some of the biggest names in the industry gave him a pragmatic approach that yielded effective solutions to many lighting design problems. For many years, he also sat on the committees advising Standards Australia on outdoor lighting standards AS4282 and AS/NZS1158. His legacy lives on not only in bodies like ADSA and the Siding Spring Dark Sky Committee, but also in the growing awareness of light pollution among the wider public.

Reg is much missed in the astronomical world. He enjoyed being among scientists, and was always good company. All of us who knew him remember him with fondness, and send our condolences to his wife, Noni.

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