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Light Pollution

Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 6:22 pm
by Walden2
In the August 20, 2007 New Yorker magazine online:

"The Dark Side: Making War on Light Pollution" by David Owen

"In 1610, Galileo Galilei published a small book describing astronomical
observations that he had made of the skies above Padua. His homemade
telescopes had less magnifying and resolving power than most beginners¹
telescopes sold today, yet with them he made astonishing discoveries: that
the moon has mountains and other topographical features; that Jupiter is
orbited by satellites, which he called planets; and that the Milky Way is
made up of individual stars. It may seem strange that this last observation
could have surprised anyone, but in Galileo¹s time people assumed that the
Milky Way must be some kind of continuous substance. It truly resembled a
streak of spilled liquid‹our word 'galaxy' comes from the Greek for milk‹and
it was so bright that it cast shadows on the ground (as did Jupiter and
Venus). Today, by contrast, most Americans are unable to see the Milky Way
in the sky above the place where they live, and those who can see it are
sometimes baffled by its nature."

Full article here: ... urrentPage

Posted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 7:14 pm
by Windwalker
An absolutely wonderful and thought-provoking essay! The New Yorker is (hurray!) slowly reverting to its pre-Tina Brown days. Lighting that allows us to see the stars; helps retain circadian rhythms, prevent cancer and keep enriching our myths; decreases vandalism and animal deaths; and is cheaper than conventional lighting. How do you improve on that?

Perhaps we should have one night when all of the US is asked to turn off all lights for one hour. I wonder how people would react -- it would almost be like Asimov's Nightfall. Perhaps it might re-awaken our thirst for the Great Mystery, whatever its name: Dhiktynna the Starnet, Wakan Tanka, Khan Tengri or The Backbone of the Night.

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 8:57 pm
by intrigued_scribe
Thanks for sharing such an excellent essay with us! This is indeed truly thought-provoking and offers a brief, but enlightening glimpse of what might be discovered--and gained--if one takes even a small, brief step back from modern technological trappings. And as Athena points out, what enriches the body here may also come to enrich the mind and spirit, eventually.


Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 12:19 am
by Walden2
Two recent articles on light pollution.

Here: ... 1609990001

and here (this one has some excellent images with it): ... 71025.html

Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:10 am
by bretonlass
This reminds me of an experience I had while in Scotland this summer.

At Blair Castle, I was smack in the proverbial middle of nowhere, and you could walk a long while without seeing much more than sheep.

During the night, there was hardly a light outside, so I should have felt, at the very least, a little skittish. But I didn't. Strangely, in the great unknown, I felt more at ease than in my own native city.

It was summer, so the night sky wasn't completely black, always keeping a bluish hue due to the northern latitude. Yet the stars in the sky... I think that, except in the fields of Brittany, I have never seen such a clear view. That is, when it wasn't too cloudy. But I digress... I could see everything, from the smallest star to the great constellations.

And like in Brittany, vertigo took me. In such a situation, I again realised how tiny I was in the great scheme of things. Though extra-terrestrial exploration is necesary for the furthering of Science, I felt that we don't fully understand how great a spaceship Earth already is. It moves through the cosmos at a speed we cannot even fathom, carrying us in the great unknown, and we mistreat it so much...

In the great hubub of the city life, we often loose thouch with the seasons and other cycles of nature, prisoners that we are of sanitised AC offices. Perhaps every once in a while, it should be mandatory to go away from the urbe to remind us of what really matters: the earth beneath our feet, and our endless capacity to imagine better worlds.


Eloise :)

Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 11:18 am
by Windwalker
Dear Eloise,

you said it so eloquently that very little can be added. I myself had a similar experience with the stars, one night on Santorini (Thera) when the lights of the island failed. My father and I sat on the beach and looked up at the sea of stars... it felt like falling.

Posted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:42 pm
by intrigued_scribe
Dear Athena and Eloise,

Your experiences are indeed beautifully described; this couldn't have been said better. The feeling of gazing upon infinity comes though perfectly in both anecdotes.


Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:33 pm
by Walden2
The efforts of one astronomer to save Flagstaff, Arizona
from encroaching light pollution: ... verse.html

And check out these cities as seen from space at night -
it looks pretty until you realize how those artificial lights
have killed the real natural beauty for those urban areas: