International Dark-Sky Association, Light Pollution, Milky Way, Night Sky, Searching for Light, Sky Guide, Stargazing
The Mobius Arch Loop Trailhead, by ©Clarisse Meyer via Unsplash
Ah, January – that time of year when the nights are longer, and if you live in a northern clime, you might be able to wander out to a hilltop on a clear, cold night, and be mesmerized by the stars above. I remember amazing nights on a fishing boat in the Philippines during my Peace Corps days, where it seemed I could reach up and take a handful of the cosmos, or hiking the Three Sisters Wilderness area under a moonless sky so bright with stars, we didn’t need flashlights. And nothing stirs the creative juices for a sci-fi story I’m writing like gazing at the heavens.
I miss the stars.
Last time I caught the majesty of the Milky Way with the naked eye, was a few years ago while visiting my park ranger daughter at Pipe Springs National Monument in Utah. I now use a smart-phone app called Sky Guide, a handheld planetarium of sorts, to view the constellations in real time. As if standing on a remote hill a thousand years ago, the app displays what we should see if the sky wasn’t hazy with light scatter.
Most of my adult working life was in or near major metropolises. It’s a little hard to stargaze with today’s countless malls, homes, and streetlamps. Though I’m fortunate to live in a small, eastern Pennsylvania town where I can stroll the streets and cul-de-sacs at night, there’s still too much light pollution to see constellations with any clarity.
How bad is it? Take a look at a before and after shot during a Northeast power outage in 2003.
Source: Darksky.org – Photo by ©Todd Carlson
It has me wondering why we need all that illumination. Apparently, I’m not alone.