40 Percent of Americans Never Known True Dark

Those who us who turn to the stars as a hobby have a scale to rank the darkness of the night, the Bortle Scale where 9 is the brightest skies and 1 is the darkest. In America the majority of people spend their lives in areas of 5 through 8 and rarely see anything different. This huge light pollution is impacting us in ways we don’t yet fully understand; lately studies have been linking light-overuse and such things as sleep disorders diabetes, obesity and cancer. It is important to remember that we’re not the only important organisms on the world and that this light is having serious consequences on the circadian cycles of many animals, and effect which is having a knock-on effect through ecosystems worldwide. However, we must not think of the purely measurable effects but also about what is being lost to us as a species in less tangible ways. The dark of night gave so much to our ancestors, thousands upon thousands of stars inspiring their imagination and influencing their art, their mythologies, their religious beliefs and their place in the universe. But more than that it offered an often intangible solitude and a perfect quiet. It is such a shame that so many people know a sky with no more than 10 stars when in reality it is so much more. I hope that we can start to reverse this process, this wasteful use of light to bring back the beauty of the night.

What can you do about it?
Around the world are a series of Dark Sky Preserves, Reserves and Parks. These areas all have their own programs to reduce light pollution, be it encouraging cities to use more efficient lights, to reduce traffic late at night, to encourage citizens to pull their curtains at night, ever little bit helps. You can get involved by hitting up Google to find your local dark sky reserve or petition to start a dark sky reserve and get involved by spreading awareness and doing your bit! Together we can bring the beauty of the night sky back to the citizens of America and the world. The night sky inspires us in so many ways and I hope you get the chance to see the sky in a beautiful 1 or 2 ranked sky!


Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve: "The sky is a cultural resource common to all humanity"

A little more than 100 years ago, people could walk outside at night everywhere, even in cities, and see the Milky Way galaxy arch across the night sky. Being able to see thousands of stars was part of everyday life, allowing people to get inspired by the beauty of our Galaxy. Nowadays, those living in the city can barely see the stars. Our ability to see starlight has diminished due to light and air pollution. Half of the world’s population cannot see stars because of night light pollution. Light pollution interferes with astronomical research, disrupting ecosystems, and determining adverse health effects, as well as wasting energy. 

This is why some bright minds though that preserving the quality of the night sky should become a priority, and acted as such. The Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve is the southern hemisphere’s first dark sky reserve, and the world’s biggest. The dark sky reserve is located in the Mackenzie Basin, in the South Island of New Zealand, and includes Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the villages of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook. A high number of clear nights throughout the year, along with the stability and transparency of the local atmosphere and its unique dark skies, make Mackenzie one of the best sites for viewing and researching the southern sky. Head here to see the Magellanic Clouds, neighboring galaxies to the Milky Way only visible in the Southern Hemisphere, or to catch the rise of the Matariki star cluster which symbolises the start of the Māori New Year.

From Earth Science Picture Of The Day; December 18, 2014:

All-Sky View of the Milky Way
Photographer: Miguel Claro; Summary Authors: Miguel Claro, Jim Foster

Shown above is an all-sky view of the Milky Way captured from Monsaraz, Portugal, behind the Orada Convent, one of the areas covered by the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve. The Milky Way is actually crossing the entire sky from horizon to horizon. Near the center of the image, at the zenith of the sky (90 degrees above the horizon), the North America Nebula can be detected in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan (The Northern Cross). Note that the yellowish band encircling the horizon is light pollution, emanating from nearby towns. The pale, green color band above the light pollution layer results from airglow. Image taken on July 27, 2014 at approximately 1:45 a.m. Compare this image to the Earth Science Picture of the Day for May 28, 2013.

Early Morning Mission by Mike Berenson - Colorado Captures on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Thanks to some fellow flickr friends, I got motivated to hike to Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado for what I hoped would be a gorgeous sunrise shot. So flashlight in hand, I started up the trail from Bear Lake at 4:30am. To Nymph Lake, Dream Lake for sunrise, and then possibly continue up further to Lake Haiyaha. Before Dream Lake, I took a quick break to capture the pre-dawn skies in this shot.

The bright crescent moon was very cool, but wasn’t bright enough to highlight all the noises that come with hiking in the woods at night. So having captured the beautiful pre-dawn skies, I turned my flashlight back on and continued making my way up the trail to Dream Lake.

Exmoor International Dark Sky Reserve, photographing star trails & Poaching!

Shot on the Canon 5D MKII with a Canon EF 14mm (f2.8 L MKII) lens at F4.0 ISO 200 for a duration of 4128 Seconds

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Over the weekend whilst shooting in Devon, I ventured out with a friend to shoot the stars from the middle of Exmoor, the International Dark Sky Reserve

As it was an impromptu decision we did not do a recce but naively decided to find a location in the dark.

The first issue arising from this was. Whilst stopping to look across the fields, a 4x4 stopped with the driver demanding to know what we were doing. We told him. He gruffly demanded to see our camera kit, which I politely declined to do so. He then maneuvered his 4x4 to block us in and again requested to see our kit.

After a brief discourse it turned out he was a local landowner and thought we were armed poachers that had being targeting the area in a van similar to mine and claiming to be photographers! He turned out to be a friendly informative chap with a love of photography; I gave him a Card and showed him a few shots on my Ipad. He gave us some local info and directed us to the location we shot.

The down side of the location was the proximity to the road combined with the position of the tree (the only landmark of any description as far as the headlights could see). To include Polaris to ensure we recorded concentric star trails we had to face the road and the distant lights of Ilfracombe This led to a car head light trail and caused the warm colour temp in the bottom third of the image.

The second issue was not being aware of the local topography. Much to my delight and entertainment, I watched my friend stumble down a two foot high mound and land prostrate in a ditch of ice cold water!

The moral of the story is always ensure you do a recce!

No sleep last night: standing out in the cold, freezing my digits off, to bring you this @instagram. Last night is one of only a few times of the year you can get a Milky Way rise and Moonrise in the same photo. #featuremeinstagood @instagood #milkyway #astrophotography (at Aoraki International Dark Sky Reserve, Lake Tekapo)

The Small Magellanic Cloud and the Milky Way from NamibRand International Dark Sky Reserve in Namibia, Africa. Our friend Matthew Hodgson, astronomer in residence at the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, sent us this photo of the southern night sky from one of the darkest places on the planet with the comment “Everyone deserves a night sky like this!” We heartily agree.

See more of Matthew’s work at alpha-lyrae.co.uk.