15-20 years ago when you were younger you would have probably muttered at some point of time, wow look at all those stars, that was the dipper, that was the Orion and the belt had the betelgeuse, You always know where the pole star was and always knew how to spot venus just at the twilight. Today, you look up the sky on the clearest of the nights and wonder where have all the stars are gone.
Well, the Stars haven’t gone anywhere, but it’s the excess urban lighting that is washing out the stars. In astronomy it’s called light pollution, the sky is washed out by the lighting instead of seeing thousand of stars and constellation patterns you are reduced to dippers and Orion.
Is there a silver lightning for us city folks? There is, even in the most urbanised city, you can just get lucky. First, watch the colour of the day sky, If it is deep blue, then you should see lots of stars at night even in a large city. If your daytime sky is very light blue though, or worse, pale grey, white, brown, or orange, then you have a problem. City light pollution will light up this haze at night and make it impossible to see any stars.
Haze isn’t due to weather alone, it can come from air pollution, pollen, or dust. If these conditions are common or persistent in your area, then seeing stars might take patience. Try a night after a day with an unusually blue sky. Try just after a rain storm has cleaned the air. Try when the wind comes from a different direction, maybe bringing clearer air. You might be lucky! or just take a two hour drive outside the city and camp, you might just find a completely different sky, perhaps even be lucky enough to see the milky way, yes on a clear night it is possible to see our galaxy after all!
Here is a comparison between what we call as a dark sky and light sky, the dark sky is just 2 hours outside of the city limits and the light sky is the city.
This whole thing has become so serious that the International Dark Sky Association:runs a save our stars program. Here are some places where you are assured of a dark sky: https://mapsengine.google.com/map/viewer?mid=zspUsAHVsopA.kPBVuDCFPl80
The International Dark-Sky Association for founded in 1988 for the purpose of raising awareness of the growing impact of light pollution. Education is our primary mission and we work to create materials for use by members, educators and the general public to inform communities and elected officials of the negative impact of light pollution and the solutions. We provide these materials at no charge to anyone that joins with us to help raise awareness and bring about change.
This was featured in Simpsons, in Season 14 Episode 16 – “Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky”. The episode features the people of springfield protesting the turning of lights by the mayor. The episode even picked up an environment media award for bringing in the concept of light pollution.