Muhammad Rayan Khan is IAU100 Dark Skies Ambassador and Young Persons Representative of Royal Aeronautical Society Pakistan Division. He is an advocate of dark skies and disseminates awareness about the adverse impact of light pollution. He talks to Karvan about Dark Skies and how can we reduce light pollution.

1. Tell us about yourself
My Name is Muhammad Rayan Khan. I am a former aircraft maintenance assistant engineer at Shaheen Air International. I have more than 8 years of post aerospace apprenticeship experience in aviation. Currently, I am doing my Master’s in Astronomy. I was selected by the International Astronomical Union global project IAU100 Dark Skies Ambassador and Young Persons Representative of Royal Aeronautical Society Pakistan Division.

2. Who is a Dark Skies Ambassador?
‘The Dark Skies for All’ project aims to raise awareness about the preservation of quiet and dark skies. Astronomy represents a rich and significant aspect of cultural and natural heritage and the project will stress the importance of preserving it and passing it onto future generations. The project will address two fundamental areas – capitalizing existing education programs on light pollution to reach out to students and forming a new IAU Dark Skies Ambassadors Network for public engagement on light pollution protection actions. This includes government lobbying actions, making the term “light pollution” a household term. The link to my profile on Dark Skies for all Global Project is given below.

3. How much about light pollution do you think people know in general?
We call Karachi the City of Lights. However, very few people are aware of light pollution. Light pollution psychologically affects your mental and emotional health, especially the circadian rhythm, which is the internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. This pollution also affects body temperature and can even cause cancer.

4. How did you develop an interest in light pollution?
As I studied astronomy, about the stars and the universe, my interest developed. Because of artificial lights, we cannot see the stars. Karachiites and those living in metropolitan cities have no connection with the natural heritage of this universe that are Dark Skies.

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5. People do become curious when they see you dressed in a black suit. What is the suit all about?
People had no interest when I talked about stars and planetary science, astronomy and dark skies on radio stations and at public forums. To make it more interactive for the general public and to add curiosity to my talk, I made myself an alien. With so many artificial lights, people cannot see me as I represent the dark skies with my costume. The suit represents the dark skies that people cannot see because of light pollution and hence, the costume serves the purpose of not only making me an alien but also to represent what the humans are missing out on because of light pollution. I am even working on Dark Skies Comic Character for kids to have a better understanding of Light Pollution and Dark Skies.

6. There is a phone in front of your face that emits light signals when you talk. Tell us about this communication process.
I place a phone in front of my face and use a smartphone application that converts my voice into the light. I use it because we do not connect through face-to-face communication but with a smartphone. The social disconnect caused by digital technology is harming our relationships and our health. We are now living in a trap because of these apps and cannot have better communication unless these Apps are not in our hands.

7. What are your other activities and hobbies?
I read books and paint. Painting is meditation and an expression of my soul.

8. How can we, as individuals, reduce light pollution?
There are so many ways to reduce light pollution. Use of covered bulbs that light goes downwards and the use of warm lights. Minimize the use of lights at home and ample use of daylight. The use of automatic systems to turn off street light at certain times will also help. Glare-free lighting for vehicles driven at night must be used. We can use motion sensors on outdoor lights. All outdoor lights with glare should be replaced with low-glare alternatives. Using right lights (use full cut-off fixtures, low color temperature <3000K lighting, no blue-rich white LEDs)

9. Where do you see yourself five years down the road?
I envision Pakistan to develop in the field of Astronomy and space research. My mission is to establish schools of astronomy and space science in Pakistan.

10. Your message for the youth of Pakistan
“Follow your dreams” Read and Rejuvenate your brain cells every day. Wisdom is a ladder to learn and to gain knowledge. It will make us a better human. Try to have a better understanding of nature and space around you. The more you learn about astronomy, the more you will learn about the universe within.

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