Milky Way now hidden from one-third of humanity

From the UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER and the “I blame Edison” department.

Light pollution now blots out the Milky Way for eight in 10 Americans. Bright areas in this map show where the sky glow from artificial lighting blots out the stars and constellations. An international team of researchers has released the new World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness, in a paper published in Science Advances today. CREDIT Falchi et al, Science Advances; Jakob Grothe/National Park Service, Matthew Price/CIRES/CU-Boulder.
Light pollution now blots out the Milky Way for eight in 10 Americans. Bright areas in this map show where the sky glow from artificial lighting blots out the stars and constellations. An international team of researchers has released the new World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness, in a paper published in Science Advances today.
CREDIT
Falchi et al, Science Advances; Jakob Grothe/National Park Service, Matthew Price/CIRES/CU-Boulder.

The Milky Way, the brilliant river of stars that has dominated the night sky and human imaginations since time immemorial, is but a faded memory to one third of humanity and 80 percent of Americans, according to a new global atlas of light pollution produced by Italian and American scientists.

Light pollution is one of the most pervasive forms of environmental alteration. In most developed countries, the ubiquitous presence of artificial lights creates a luminous fog that swamps the stars and constellations of the night sky.

“We’ve got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way,” said Chris Elvidge, a scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Boulder, Colorado. “It’s a big part of our connection to the cosmos — and it’s been lost.”

Elvidge, along with Kimberly Baugh of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, is part of a team that just updated a global atlas of light pollution published today in the journal Science Advances. Using high-resolution satellite data and precision sky brightness measurements, their study produced the most accurate assessment yet of the global impact of light pollution.

“I hope that this atlas will finally open the eyes of people to light pollution,” said lead author Fabio Falchi from the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Italy.

The atlas takes advantage of low-light imaging now available from the NOAA/NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, calibrated by thousands of ground observations.

Light pollution is most extensive in countries like Singapore, Italy and South Korea, while Canada and Australia retain the most dark sky. In western Europe, only small areas of night sky remain relatively undiminished, mainly in Scotland, Sweden and Norway. Despite the vast open spaces of the American west, almost half of the U.S. experiences light-polluted nights.

“In the U.S., some of our national parks are just about the last refuge of darkness – places like Yellowstone and the desert southwest,” said co-author Dan Duriscoe of the National Park Service. “We’re lucky to have a lot of public land that provides a buffer from large cities.”

Light pollution does more than rob humans of the opportunity to ponder the night sky. Unnatural light can confuse or expose wildlife like insects, birds and sea turtles, with often fatal consequences.

Fortunately, light pollution can be controlled by shielding lights to limit shine to the immediate area, reducing lighting to the minimum amount needed — or by simply turning them off.

###

In other news, North Korea still offers the Milky Way as the only free entertainment available at night, except in Pyongyang.

Acquired January 30, 2014. Flying over East Asia, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) took this night image of the Korean Peninsula
Acquired January 30, 2014. Flying over East Asia, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) took this night image of the Korean Peninsula
0 0 votes
Article Rating
149 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jared
June 13, 2016 6:48 am

I’ve never seen the Milky Way. I’ve seen pictures of the Milky Way but I can’t say whether or not they are artificially enhanced photos or what it would look like with my own eyes.

JohnWho
Reply to  Jared
June 13, 2016 6:54 am

Photos don’t do it justice, jared.
When it is across the whole dome of the sky it is almost surreal.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  JohnWho
June 13, 2016 10:42 am

It wasn’t until I went camping in an isolated piece of NY state that I saw the Milky Way. Being a Jersey boy, born and bred, even from the ’60s the night sky was too light-polluted to see it at all, let alone properly. I kept wondering what everyone was nattering about in the books and articles I read that mentioned the Milky Way in some fashion. Now I know.

Editor
Reply to  JohnWho
June 13, 2016 7:01 pm

I saw it when driving across Arizona in 1979. Splashed across the sky, incredible.
(And, yes, every time a car passed, the headlights diminished the effect.)

Chuck
Reply to  Jared
June 13, 2016 7:28 am

No astroimage you have ever seen looks as though it would with your naked eye. Astronomical objects are too faint to be seen well even in a large telescope and require exposures with sensitive CCD cameras of minutes to many hours or even days. Some objects emit light at wavelengths that the eye is not very sensitive to. These long exposures are then processed to enhance contrast and brightness to produce the images you have seen.

GPHanner
Reply to  Chuck
June 13, 2016 9:40 am

The Milky Way is an exception. On a Moonless night it is incredibly bright. I have seen it at mid-latitudes and at tropical latitudes. In the tropics, our nearest stellar neighbors also shine incredibly bright.

Reply to  Chuck
June 13, 2016 3:01 pm

Andromeda from my driveway.comment image

Duster
Reply to  Jared
June 13, 2016 6:44 pm

Jared, standing outside on a clear, moonless night well away from any city or town and looking up is an incomparable experience. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself the favor of making the effort to do it. Take a red-lensed flash light and a star chart along and find the constellations. Regardless of where you live, in North America you should be able to reach a location dark enough within an hour at most provided you don’t simply hop on a freeway.

Editor
Reply to  Duster
June 13, 2016 7:12 pm

Use H.A. Rey’s “The Stars”. Best charts ever. There’s nothing like the constellations actually looking like what they are called. (Being a cartoonist, he just redrew the lines.)
http://codex99.com/illustration/the-stars.html

Duster
Reply to  Duster
June 13, 2016 8:50 pm

That’s a good link. I bookmarked it. Thanks.

TonyG
Reply to  Duster
June 14, 2016 7:32 am

Evan,
I was first introduced to the stars via H.A. Rey’s “Find the Constellations”. I lost the book ages ago but it seems it’s still in print – or at least it was when my children were that age. Two kids both interested in astronomy as a result of that book, as well as me.
Thanks for the reference!

asybot
Reply to  Jared
June 13, 2016 11:41 pm

I have the happiness of living in a fairly dark area where in between two towns 40 miles apart and behind a ridge. The Milky way is an ever astounding view on any clear night although the light pollution in the past 25 years is starting to be noticeable even from those two towns. There is a movement in place to start “dimming ” high way lights and changing them to “low” light stands but it is a very slow process.

June 13, 2016 6:49 am

Next we will hear how skyrocketing electricity prices are not only good for climate change but helps you see the Milky Way.

steveta_uk
Reply to  Myron Mesecke
June 13, 2016 8:05 am

True in the UK. Many councils are turning off street lights at midnight to save money, allowing the Milky Way to be seen again for the first time since the 70’s!

Duster
Reply to  steveta_uk
June 13, 2016 6:45 pm

There is an organization devoted to bring back dark skies: http://darksky.org/

skeohane
June 13, 2016 6:52 am

Nothing better than to take my 13″ reflector to a mountain pass above 10K feet. There, there is nowhere in the sky without stars. To the naked eye there, the Milky Way is a river of light.

JohnWho
June 13, 2016 6:53 am

One half of humanity can’t see the Milky Way half of the time (day light). Just sayin’.
Meanwhile, is this problem really “light pollution” or “dark pollution”?
Seriously, on a clear night when you can see the Milky Way, it is breathtaking especially if you haven’t seen it in a long time.

Paul Westhaver
June 13, 2016 6:54 am

In cities, when most of the urban socialist greens dwell, they look up and see only artifact that extends from their own lives.
It is pretty hard to develop a proper vista of the Cosmos and our relationship to it when you can’t even see stars.
Urban perspective is narrowing isn’t it.

RoHa
Reply to  Paul Westhaver
June 13, 2016 7:45 pm

“It is pretty hard to develop a proper vista of the Cosmos and our relationship to it when you can’t even see stars.”
Perhaps not a bad thing.

June 13, 2016 6:55 am

Pretty much the only time I ever really saw the Milky Way was when I lived 90 minutes outside Redding CA. Very striking, but it was not enough to compensate for living in the far boonies.

scraft1
Reply to  Tom Halla
June 13, 2016 12:13 pm

That’s right. Life is made up of choices. Most people living in cities don’t give a rat’s behind about seeing the Milky Way, and don’t consider themselves deprived at all if they never see it. Don’t believe me? Then ask a millenial and see if he/she will look up from their smart phone long enough to acknowledge your presence.

Doonman
Reply to  Tom Halla
June 13, 2016 4:46 pm

I have friends who live in the Sierra’s away from most light pollution. When I visit in the summer, I always spend the evening outside amazed at what the bright Milky Way actually is and the structure it contains.
I can’t ever get them to come outside with me. They prefer to sit inside watching reruns on TV.

Marcus
June 13, 2016 6:57 am

..Hmmm, have these people never heard of the internet ?? I can find video’s, photo’s and animations of much more than just the Milky Way 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whether it is cloudy out or not !

Marcus
Reply to  Marcus
June 13, 2016 10:39 am

..Wow, 4 hours to get posted !! Why bother ?

len
June 13, 2016 6:58 am

As someone who has 2 telescopes, a 120mm mak and an 8″ dobsonian, and does sky viewing at times (been lazy this past year or so)i know about light pollution, it amazes me how much MORE you see at night in darker skies and how bright the stars are. I live in a “white” zone and can see only the brightest of stars at night. i go 50 miles to a red zone and can see -naked eye- about twice as many stars, going to a black zone..is georgeous.

Kerry
June 13, 2016 6:59 am

I work for sports lighting company — a market rapidly transitioning away from traditional HID lamps to using LED light sources. Having “point sources” of light in the form of LEDs makes it possible to use advanced optics to very precisely direct light to where it is needed while eliminating the vast majority of “spill light” and glare. Street lighting is also rapidly transitioning to the use of LEDs, and my company has also provided LED lighting of some very recognizable architectural structures, including some national monuments. With time, it should be possible to have high quality outdoor lighting everywhere it is needed while substantially reducing light pollution. At the same time, energy consumption is also greatly reduced.

Abuzuzu
Reply to  Kerry
June 13, 2016 10:06 am

Kerry
I am glad to hear from you the industry is moving towards more directional LED lighting. Perhaps you can tell me why so many illuminated playing fields run their lights all night and why this is seemingly a common practice. I can understand grounds keeping at night but I never see groundskeepers.
My crazy personal schedule has me doing two inner-state- very late night drives every week. Public school and local government owned illuminated venues are commonly lit up.
I would think the electricity savings alone -assuming HID lightly- would pay for a timer operated power off switch.
Or how about a specialized switch that detects motion on the field and powers off some time after motion is no longer detected.

Kerry
Reply to  Abuzuzu
June 13, 2016 2:59 pm

Beats me why a typical sports facility would have lights on all night… the electricity costs would be very prohibitive. We offer controls for our systems that can be used to automatically schedule lights on and off, with one major goal being to prevent unplanned or wasteful usage. Some facilities may have some portion of their lights on all night for security purposes, but on-field lighting for sporting events requires a lot of power so having them on constantly definitely is not the norm.
One downside to HID lighting is the time required for the lights to come up to full illumination once they are turned on. So a facility with sporadic nighttime usage might need to leave them on… but that doesn’t apply to most sports facilities. With the “instant on/off” capability of LED lighting, this problem can essentially be eliminated. LED lighting can also be operated at fractional power settings depending on need (e.g. security, maintenance, general purpose usage or “event” lighting) which further improves efficiency.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Abuzuzu
June 13, 2016 7:23 pm

Abuzuzu, you know what ‘romantic’ says :
the deepest darkness of soul.
obviously no blog is free of.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Kerry
June 13, 2016 7:13 pm

Abuzuzu,
The hypocritical don’t dare to ask their mayors regarding the high electricity bills on nightly sports fields to prevent child abuse.
full stop.

MarkW
June 13, 2016 7:20 am

Light pollution, or what others call being able to see if someone is sneaking up on you at night.

Barbara Skolaut
Reply to  MarkW
June 13, 2016 9:36 am

Bingo, Mark!

Reply to  MarkW
June 13, 2016 10:28 am

Light pollution shines on carbon pollution. What to do? what to do?
Enjoy Western prosperity.
If you want to see the Milky Way, just drive into the country or sail to sea.
It’s still there.
Don’t fret.

Reply to  MarkW
June 13, 2016 12:17 pm

No, just light pollution. It’s light that goes up, not down to where it actually would do any good. Since transitioning to full cutoff LED lighting in my area, the skies are significantly darker, with no change in the lighting on the streets/sidewalks.

MarkW
Reply to  pworam
June 14, 2016 8:19 am

Light reflected off the ground still pollutes.

SteveAstroUk
Reply to  MarkW
June 13, 2016 7:56 pm

Not actually true. There is a positive correlation between light and crime. The IDSA had the reference. Essentially the brighter the light, the darker the shadows…. Where the bad people are.

Reply to  SteveAstroUk
June 13, 2016 8:15 pm

” Essentially the brighter the light, the darker the shadows…. Where the bad people are.”
I don’t have but a single streetlight within a half mile, and I have a full shadow on my garage door from my neighbors about 50 sidewalk front light, in the middle of the night. It is amazingly bright when you’re trying to preserve your night vision.

Reply to  SteveAstroUk
June 13, 2016 8:16 pm

Suppose to be a 50W sidewalk light.

MarkW
Reply to  SteveAstroUk
June 14, 2016 8:21 am

You are confusing cause and effect.
Did the existence of lighting cause crime? Or did the existence of crime cause lighting to be installed?
When there is no lighting, everything is shadow.
If the criminals stay to the shadows the response of the citizen is two fold.
First, stay out of the shadows.
Second, do what you can to make sure there are even fewer shadows.

Duster
Reply to  MarkW
June 13, 2016 9:06 pm

Not really. Your typical mugger likes to be able to see what he’s doing too. How would he be able to safely chose a target without being able to see? Research this and you will find that there are numerous studies that show no evidence that street lights prevent street crime and may in fact actually facilitate things like drive by shootings. Street lights do help prevent traffic/pedestrian accidents. That’s about all.
In general better lit areas indicate more wealth and that can attract some types of crime. Where I grew up there were about six houses in the valley and you could see their 60-watt porch lights at night until everyone turned in. One or two had 160-watt lights over the barn doors. Then in the mid-60s the first “city guy” moved in with his family. The first thing he did was put up a big, bright, neon yard light. His house was the very first house ever burgled in the valley and the thieves stole the light was well. The investigating deputy remarked that the light had been like a sign advertising the owner’s belief he had something worth stealing.

Resourceguy
June 13, 2016 7:21 am

It’s those mindless polluters in NYC again.

Richard Bell
June 13, 2016 7:22 am

Visit BAJA …… Only a few hundred miles of driving down the peninsular and the Milky Way is there to enjoy.

JJ, too.
June 13, 2016 7:31 am

Yellowstone in February. Milky Way is intensely beautiful. Satellites galore.

Steve Taylor
June 13, 2016 7:32 am

One of the darkest places to observe in the USA is about 70 miles north of State College Pa – Cherry Springs State Park. Sky is incredible there.
I remember observing from the Arizona sky village in Portal Arizona, and being unable to identify constellations – because there were too many stars !

Bryan A
Reply to  Steve Taylor
June 13, 2016 10:20 am

I would think that just 20 miles east of Barrow Alaska would be the darkest. Especially on those days when the Sun never rises, Of course you would have to contend with those pesky aurora lights though.
Dang, Probably North Korea then

Chuck
June 13, 2016 7:35 am

I am an amateur astrophotographer of 30 years and in retirement live in a blue zone in the Sierra Nevada foothills. There are not many places left where you can live and do astrophotography from your backyard. If all lighting was designed to illuminate the ground then more people would still be able to see the Milky Way. All that light seen from space is simply wasted electricity.

Duster
Reply to  Chuck
June 13, 2016 9:10 pm

Chuck, flying in above a city, there aren’t many lights illuminating the sky. Light pollution is mostly scatter from over-bright street and parking lot lights. Bright signs and parks added their own contributions followed by traffic and house lights.

Bruce Cobb
June 13, 2016 7:44 am

If the greenie enviro-loons have their way, we will become more like North Korea. Of course, Al Gore and co. will still be lit up like Christmas trees.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
June 13, 2016 7:55 am

Of course, you can’t expect the eco-elites to live the sad lives of the vast underclass.

crosspatch
June 13, 2016 7:50 am

I can see it now: “We had to cut off the electricity so you could see the Milky Way. It’s for your own good.”

asybot
Reply to  crosspatch
June 13, 2016 11:54 pm

+1 actually + many! Quote of the day for me ! ( PS, don’t give them ideas, delete asap).

ConTrari
June 13, 2016 7:54 am

No problem. Just introduce mandatory “Earth Hour” every second day, and the Milky Way will shine through.

chris y
June 13, 2016 8:01 am

Looks like an opportunity for an Oculus App…

June 13, 2016 8:13 am

When I lived in Lower Manhattan , I never was aware of the phases of the moon . Now at 2500 meters ( 8200ft ) , 30km from Colorado Springs and 70 from Denver , I always have a general idea .
I am quite surprised , tho , how strong the glows from both CS and Denver are here even on clear nights .
Somehow the Milky Way doesn’t seem as striking as it did when camping with Bucky’s Boys Club at 200m in Bannockburn IL 60 years ago .

MarkW
Reply to  Bob Armstrong
June 13, 2016 12:14 pm

Some of it could be light pollution.
Some of it is undoubtedly the eyes not working as well as they used to.

Reply to  MarkW
June 13, 2016 12:26 pm

Too true

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Bob Armstrong
June 13, 2016 10:55 pm

I am told that the name “Denver” means 1 mile above sea level.

John F. Hultquist
June 13, 2016 8:20 am

I live in a rural area, turn the porch light out, step outside, and there it is.comment image

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
June 13, 2016 8:28 am

Serious now:
Table Mountain Star Party
http://www.tmspa.com/
Held 15 miles north and 3,000 ft higher than where we live.

asybot
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
June 13, 2016 11:55 pm

And here I thought it was a chocolate bar!

Bruce Cobb
June 13, 2016 8:29 am

Like all real pollution, light pollution can be cut down but it takes money to invest in the technology. In other words, it is wealth that allows us the luxury of cutting pollution down. But the greenie-weenies don’t understand that. Instead, they want to attack wealth, by raising the cost of energy.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 13, 2016 8:36 am

On the big island of Hawaii (home to multiple observatories at the top of Mauna Kea), street lighting is regulated to minimize light pollution. Lights cannot be white, but must be low pressure sodium (LPS) yellow or red and must be aimed down. This creates tensions between motorists who want well lit major roads and astronomers who want ambient darkness to get the best conditions for their telescopes.
One exchange from 2008 is summarized here. Astronomer Andrew Cooper defends the lighting restrictions.
But Hawaii is also transitioning to LEDs for street lighting, see here and here. Those date from 2012 and suggest the conversion would be completed shortly but having been there October last year, I can testify there are still plenty of LPS lights left.
None of the Hawaii regulations apply to automobile headlights, so there will still be some white light spillage.
Because most roads in Hawaii are not lit at all except in urban areas or at major intersections, I try to plan my driving so I’m not out after dark, especially not on the mountain roads. This creates tension between using daylight hours for safe transportation and maximum enjoyment of the beaches, but so far I’ve managed to deal with it.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
June 13, 2016 8:37 am
TomRude
June 13, 2016 8:40 am

Let’s ban electricity, NOW! /sarc

chris y
Reply to  TomRude
June 13, 2016 9:56 am

It isn’t the electricity or the light fixture that is the problem.
It is the photon flux.
So, let’s ban anthropogenic photons.

Reply to  chris y
June 13, 2016 10:45 am

Oh, you mean the EVIL photons.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  chris y
June 13, 2016 2:36 pm

Time for the Photon Tax.

tony mcleod
Reply to  chris y
June 13, 2016 5:30 pm

Hang on. Do you guys want to see the Milky Way or not? Do you even care about that kind of fluffy greenie stuff?

Jerry Howard
June 13, 2016 8:40 am

The irony is that a move to full-cutoff lighting fixtures for outdoor lighting would dramatically reduce light pollution as well as reduce the electricity usage by the fixtures by about 40% with no decrease in effective lighting.

tony mcleod
Reply to  Jerry Howard
June 13, 2016 5:32 pm

The irony Jerry, the irony. Wait, you’re just taking the piss. Lol. This, like everything else, is an eco-elite plot.

Fraizer
June 13, 2016 8:41 am

When I was a boy growing up in Los Angeles, I never understood how ancient mariners could navigate by the stars. When I took my first offshore sail and got over the horizon I remember looking up at the night sky in awe and thinking oh, that’s how.

June 13, 2016 8:45 am

On balance, I’d rather have more light than less. Labelling something so useful as pollution is irresponsible and deceitful.
Those who advocate for concentrating the population in cities better not be the same people labelling light “pollution” because it prevents naked-eye viewing of the Milky Way.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  rovingbroker
June 13, 2016 10:58 am

Real light pollution is actually lighting spillover, meaning light which is wasted. The idea is to direct it down to where it is needed. There are ways of reducing it, but they do cost money.

Duster
Reply to  rovingbroker
June 13, 2016 9:23 pm

The light labeled “pollution” isn’t useful for anything. Its waste, pure and simple, and you pay for it. Light on the ground, or where you need to see is useful; light reflecting off haze 20,000 feet over your head is not doing anything useful.

Jim G1
June 13, 2016 8:55 am

If Obama has his way, we’ll all look like N Korea at night, soon.

Marty
June 13, 2016 9:00 am

In 1959 I could look up in a clear sky at night and see the strip of stars across the sky that was the Milky Way. It was easy as pie. I lived 22 miles out side of NYC in North Jersey.
Now I live 33 miles out side NYC in North Jersey and all I can see is Venus, sometimes Mars and Jupiter, and Sometimes I can make out Big and Little Dipper. Orion can be seen in Winter. The summer has terrible seeing because of Haze and Spill Light from Streets, Auto Dealers, Vast Parking Lots at Malls, and the required Lumens for ATM Machines.
Not seeing the MW is old news, By the 70’s it was lost in these parts. Sodium Vapor and everybody’s fear of the dark, crime put an end to small Incandesent street lights.
Glen Ridge, NJ still has Gas Light street lighting. Its the most pleasant mellow lighting there is, a very soft yellow glow. Ride through the back streets after a fresh snowfall and you could swear you traveled back in time 125 years. I would bet you would have an easier time seeing the MW there.

Alan the Brit
June 13, 2016 9:10 am

Correct me if I am wrong (no news there then) but aren’t some of these photographs taken though an infra red or some such filter which enhances the apparent effect of urban lighting. After all, if that’s how bright things are from space & very high altitude, I would have though folks down on the ground would need sunglasses at see at night!

Paul
Reply to  Alan the Brit
June 13, 2016 11:08 am

You are not wrong. That photo is enhanced and very exaggerated and constitutes green propaganda.

tony mcleod
Reply to  Paul
June 13, 2016 5:34 pm

Yes the Milky Way is propaganda. “They” are just trying to trick us.

FJ Shepherd
June 13, 2016 9:28 am

Boo hoo! Humanity is soooo baaaad.

tony mcleod
Reply to  FJ Shepherd
June 13, 2016 5:37 pm

No FJ, not all of Humanity. Pretty well just the greedy, capitalist ones and others who benefit from the fouling of our nest. Me included.

Randle Dewees
June 13, 2016 9:36 am

One of the positives of living in the north Mojave Desert is the relatively dark sky I have at my house – I can walk out my front door and see the Milky Way from about 20 degrees above horizon. I too use telescopes but I’m more of a planetary/lunar observer – 8 inch F14 achromatic refractor.
The darkest skies I’ve seen, by far, were in the middle of the South Pacific. 1978 I was on the USS Prairie AD-15 and we keep breaking down and going DIW (dead in water) for days at a time. The conditions were amazing, windless super clear atmosphere, blazing smooth green/blue ocean during the days, astounding blaze of stars in a satin black sky at night. Just the faint ionization band near the horizon above a pitch black sea. Constellations were difficult to make out because of the crowding of other stars. I had a good pair of binos – I could hardy see a difference in the scene the unaided sky was so dark. It took us 4 weeks to make the transit Pearl Harbor to the Philippines which I think was a stroke of good fortune for me.
The best land skies I’ve seen have been high up (> 12000′) in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the neighboring White Mountains. Barcroft Saddle in the White Mountains is one of the higher places you can drive an ordinary car to in the U.S.. It’s the trailhead for hiking 14000′ White Mountain. It’s also a very dark site for star grazers but you have to be hardy because it’s usually very cold and windy, even in the summer.

South River Independent
Reply to  Randle Dewees
June 14, 2016 9:47 pm

That is what you can expect when you take a destroyer tender out to sea. They are meant to be welded to a pier somewhere.

Mike
June 13, 2016 9:41 am

And the assault on man’s mind continues.

Pathway
June 13, 2016 9:42 am

See the great advantage of living in North Korea. You can see the milky way if you have the strength to get out the door. Or better yet, [if] you have a window in your prison cell.

T. Madigan
June 13, 2016 9:42 am

Reblogged this on Astronomy Topic Of The Day and commented:
Reblogged from an article published in Watts Up With That, Monday, June 13, 2016
Growing up in rural mid-Suffolk county in the late 1960s, the night sky and the Milky Way were mainstays for me and largely contributed to my life-long love affair with the stars and the natural universe. They were, in large part, the inspiration that fueled what would begin as a hobby, building an observatory in my backyard at age 13 to house my modest telescope, where I would read every book I could find on astronomy, to a profession today, teaching young minds about the universe, attempting to instill in them the inspiration that I experienced as a young boy.
I thought the sky as I had witnessed it in mid-central Long Island was as good as it gets, unaware of the slow and inexorable growth of light pollution that was ever so slowly stealing away the sky’s natural beauty; the milky way, its sublime and ethereal being gradually diminished, replaced with the garish and ugly lights of man; this spectacle of nature, revealing herself in the largest and grandest possible extent, our galaxy, our home in the cosmos, was slowly disappearing.
On a 1972 camping trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my father, I came to learn what I once had 10 years earlier at my childhood home when I emerged from our tent, wondering what the source of the light was outside. My breath was taken away at the reflection of the Milky Way in Lake Winnipesauke, that the Milky Way was the source of the light and was casting a shadow and that you could navigate what was otherwise a pitch-dark campground by it without a flashlight!
A piece in the current issue of the Christian Science Monitor discusses what many of us in the Astronomical community have known for over 4 decades, that the night sky is being slowly taken away from us, that over 33% of humanity today cannot enjoy the splendor of the night sky, the diamonds set in a velvety black background, the majesty of the Milky Way, the greatest lightshow ever imagined is invisible to much of humanity.
I have often written of the need for increased education in the STEM fields, how that would be a good place to start, to stem the growth of pseudoscience, religious extremism and the clear onset of a new intellectual dark age. The 2009 International Year of Astronomy was such an attempt but that effort has waned considerably, largely forgotten after almost seven years, although the website(s) and some of the projects continue to this day.
The simple act of looking up at the sky after sunset, watching the stars slowly come out, the Milky Way slowly becoming visible during twilight is all that’s necessary to inspire the current generation of young minds and is, I would argue, the antidote and cure to such horrific acts of violence as what happened in Orlando, Florida over the weekend. This was an act of hate, perhaps, but it was also motivated by fundamentalist religious extremism. Nature abhors a vacuum and will quickly find a substitute; a society bereft of any meaningful inspiration will quickly devolve, spiraling to ever darker and darker depths.
It’s no wonder that there is no one today to fill the shoes of such greats as Carl Sagan, one individual who inspired my generation; no one can see the night sky anymore. The sources of inspiration are gone, replaced by endless shopping mall after shopping mall, movie theatres, car dealerships; the list is almost endless.
Humanity is being disenfranchised of her birthright. Shield the lights, turn them off (reducing our collective carbon footprint in the process) and let us be inspired once again.
It’s really quite easy to affect a change here. Support the efforts of such groups as The International Dark Sky Association whose mission is to educate, inform and assist. Get involved in your local communities and civic associations; become informed and advocate for sensible dark sky ordinances at the local level. One person can make a difference; we owe it to ourselves, our progeny and all future generations who may never know what it was like to simply look up in awe and wonder at the night sky.

June 13, 2016 10:02 am

I consider the safety provided by urban lighting to be a good trade for a perpetual viewing of the Milky Way.

tony mcleod
Reply to  brycenuc
June 13, 2016 5:43 pm

Yes that’s is the trade-off. But what affect does removing that source of nightly wonder do to the modern urban psyche? One more step removed from the natural world and the sense of oneness with it?
And if that is the case, does that go some way in explaining our propensity to treat it poorly.

Udar
Reply to  tony mcleod
June 13, 2016 6:30 pm

Oneness with nature doesn’t just mean looking up at the stars with wonder.
I am sure that some poor african who is being consumed by a lion is really happy by the sense of “oneness with it”.
Me – I am quite happy with occasional drive to a places where Milky Way is visible. In my evil, fossil-fuel burning car.

T. Madigan
Reply to  brycenuc
June 13, 2016 8:38 pm

Have you ever seen the Milky Way from a desert location or from the top of a mountain? The “safety provided by urban lighting” is an illusion. The FBI and the DOJ have conducted studies that show an actual increase in the crime rate with increased nighttime lighting levels.The use of bight lights, Yardblasters or over-lit streets != safety.

Reply to  brycenuc
June 14, 2016 10:23 pm

Emission Nebulae glow in the light from ionizing whatever element it is composed of, hydrogen, and oxygen are typical, hydrogen alpha which makes up a lot of such gas is in the near infrared, usually the Bayer color filters used in full color sensors has to be removed to get a better signal. But the atm is clear in this wavelength.
The Andromeda galaxy I posted up a ways is the best about 19 hours of 5 minute exposures, out of the 40 some hours I collected, the subs are added to each other, signal sums faster than background, but under bright night skies, the signal can be 10 photons above background, and takes a tremendous number of subs, the darker the skies are the more signal you can collect without saturating the sensor pixels.
Once stacked, you can do various cleaning of the image, I do very little, mostly just adjust black point, but it is still far far from being fabricated.

betapug
June 13, 2016 10:03 am

Some of us can still remember growing up in societies and communities where dark nights held no menace. The acoustic environment was also dark and both hearing and vision could explore the environment with maximum sensitivity A lost world..

Berényi Péter
June 13, 2016 10:12 am

We’ve got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way. It’s a big part of our connection to the cosmos — and it’s been lost.

The cosmos used to be a cosy place, not any more. Turned out it is unimaginably, and frankly, quite unnecessarily large. Volume of space seen from Earth, whenever that luminous fog is lifted, is more than ten-to-the seventy cubic kilometer, mostly filled with emptiness, and on top of that, deadly radiation. It is an awfully horrible construct. It is quite sufficient to know it is out there, who the heck would want to see it?

gringojay
June 13, 2016 10:16 am

Scintillating star light reaching our retina from looking at the MilkyWay may be a kind of hormonal regulator that is also dose
dependent in regards to it’s effect. Usually we would have viewed it for only part of the night & been sleeping more hours of the night than staring at the MilkyWay.
Modern night lighting has less “twinkling” pulses at our retina & it
is has not been polarized the same way star light has been by galaxys’ “dust” before reaching our eyes. Plus, when living under star lit night sky we experience cycles of night light intensity when MilkWay obscured by clouds, moon phases play out & a progressive ebb toward dawn. Under modern night lighting the clouded sky can still be reflecting down light, only full/new moon
light make a significant cyclic difference & the ebb in light toward dawn has shorter break.
Humans normally have hormonal cycles in a 24 hour period. One example is our level of cortisol; ancestrally programmed to rise before dawn & prime us for getting going.
Another may (?) be that compounds in our retina act on thyroid level (a thyro-tropin “like” compound has been found in rodent retina). I have not check recently for humans, but think in rats thyro-tropin level dropping has a delay of ~ 2 hours come dark & reaches it’s lowest level ~4 hours into the night (in rats – so am extrapolating for what follows).
My speculation is that our archaic pattern of MilkyWay light exposure would be a partial thyroid setting dynamic. We were
getting periodic high levels of scintillation that boosted the thyroid by sustaining thyro-tropin levels when this would otherwise start to fall off ~ 2 hours into darkness because we were still awake checking up every now & then at the MilkyWay.
By ~4 hours into the dark we’d normally be asleep; but the earlier night sky light dose gave us a higher base-line thyro-tropin, so on clearer nights on those nights our minimum level was less. By living exposed to variable night light influences we avoided a purely “steady” state of thyroid hormonal pattern &, although introduced unpredictable factors, we got beneficial “gain” of function. Likewise, whenever we’d wake during the night & take a look at the night sky we’d get a pulse of scintillating light.

gringojay
Reply to  gringojay
June 13, 2016 10:22 am

Edit: last paragraph re: clearer night our “… minimum level was less …” should add word ” severe.”

tadchem
June 13, 2016 10:29 am

Personally, I am glad to have the Internet instead.

Ernest Bush
June 13, 2016 10:33 am

On the desert north of Yuma, AZ, I spent many nights setting up equipment related to my work. At 3 am the sky was so bright on moonless nights there was enough light to see without turning on artificial lights. With an 80-inch folded lens mounted to a standard video camera we could image Saturn including its rings and moons, and the disk of striped Jupiter with many of its moons. It never failed to fill me with awe.

Coeur de Lion
June 13, 2016 10:42 am

The lack of electric light in most of the African continent is a disgrace. But greenies are all for impoverishment.

MRW
June 13, 2016 10:46 am

I was in the Zulu-Natal section of South Africa one summer, on top of a mountain. When I stepped outside (we were staying at the only available lodgings for mountains around us), When I stepped outside the first night, I was taken aback–almost frightened–at the star show, and the light they provided. (1) I’ve never seen phony pictures of night skies with the spectacular brilliant clarity and nearness of stars, not even in the Rockies. (2) From my earthly perspective, it seemed as if every square foot had a sparkler.
it was the first time I understood how the observant ancients could use the stars to navigate and why they came up with the idea.

MRW
Reply to  MRW
June 13, 2016 10:54 am

On a separate note: I know nothing about astronomy or stars appearing. Why would the stars seem so bright and plentiful in a place like Zulu-Natal, but you can’t seem them from the moon (as photos show)?

MRW
Reply to  MRW
June 13, 2016 11:02 am

“see them” Damn autocorrect.

Aphan
Reply to  MRW
June 13, 2016 11:29 am

MRW-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Examination_of_Apollo_Moon_photographs#There_are_no_stars_in_any_of_the_photos
Same reason as the topic-light pollution. The entire surface of the moon is highly reflective, ANY light shining on it from the Sun produces “light pollution” that prevents the stars from being viewed from the surface. The stars don’t disappear during the “daytime” on Earth no matter where you live, they are always there shining away. You just cannot see them when the Sun is shining.

MRW
Reply to  MRW
June 13, 2016 11:31 am

Aphan,
Is that also an issue in Antarctica and the Arctic Circle? Wit the albedo I mean?

MarkW
Reply to  MRW
June 13, 2016 12:16 pm

That’s been explained many times.
It has to do with the foreground being bright, so the aperture of the cameras is set low.
If you mask out the foreground, and turn up the contrast on those pictures, the stars show up.

Owen in GA
Reply to  MRW
June 13, 2016 1:42 pm

I think if we were to land on the dark side of the moon, the stars would be much brighter, but the landing and surface navigation much more difficult.

Reply to  MRW
June 14, 2016 2:00 am

Because it seem them photos on the moon were taken in the day time.

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
June 20, 2016 8:46 am

Because it seem them photos on the moon were taken in the day time.

The moon is very very bright as an astronomical object. I need to use 1/200s or less to get good exposures, and even the planets require multiple seconds.

MRW
Reply to  MRW
June 13, 2016 6:15 pm

Thanks, Aphan and MarkW.

Aphan
June 13, 2016 11:14 am

So it sounds like we have a “whole generation of people” whose parents never took them anywhere, or they themselves have never ventured beyond the limits of the city they were born in. How sad is that?
I live in the Mountain west and its easy to find a place dark enough to see the Milky Way. You don’t even have to go to a “National Forest” to get that view either. Just drive any stretch of highway long enough to lose the “glow” from a major city or town, pull off the road, and look UP. Or drive up a canyon far enough that the “light pollution” is blocked by the side of a mountain. There are VAST sections of highway in the Western US where this is possible-so I find it sad that an entire “generation” of people have never camped, hiked, taken a road trip, or traveled outside of a brightly lit city even ONCE in their entire lives.
That’s probably why a lot of people “believe” in AGW-if they think that the whole world experiences the exact same things they do (like not knowing what the night sky really looks like), and if it seems to be, or even IS warming where they live, then surely it must be for everyone else too. They have no true grasp that what they experience or “see” is not a “clear view of reality”….that others see and experience something VASTLY different than they do-even when they look at the very same thing.

Reply to  Aphan
June 13, 2016 11:41 am

Spot on about our beautiful highway system, Aphan. And did you notice that the only land that is recognized as being free of these polluting “anthropogenic photons” is land owned by the Federal Government?
It is right here:

“In the U.S., some of our national parks are just about the last refuge of darkness – places like Yellowstone and the desert southwest,” said co-author Dan Duriscoe of the National Park Service. “We’re lucky to have a lot of public land that provides a buffer from large cities.”

June 13, 2016 11:24 am

Yes would someone mind removing the cloud cover in Washington.
The most astonishing view of the stars in the desert. There is an exit out near the border between California and Arizona where it is so dark and dry that the stars seem to dangle around your head.
Ah but then, within open, free Protestant countries (the steel/coal/cement/electriciy culture) it seems we are able to view the Milky Way in more than the visible light spectrum, and in greater detail than ever imagined.
The Heart of the Milky Way in radio waves
http://s32.postimg.org/npeoj99yd/GC_radioarc.jpg

June 13, 2016 11:34 am

Do the people with the honor of living in dark villages and huts (close to the earth and with an unbroken “connection to the cosmos”) get to see the helix perpendicular to the galactic plane?
http://www.holoscience.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Double-Helix-Nebula.jpg
It is a lovely structure.

MRW
Reply to  Zeke
June 13, 2016 11:43 am

As I explained above, I saw it in Zulu-Natal country–it seemed only as far away from me as a cathedral ceiling–but it was just a line of demarcation, a belt, that broke up the utterly insane star show. As you wrote, “the stars seem to dangle around your head.” I know exactly what you mean.

Reply to  MRW
June 13, 2016 12:42 pm

@MRW
I enjoyed hearing about that experience. I would like to see the stars and a few caves in Africa.

guereza2wdw
June 13, 2016 11:47 am

the only two places where I have ever seen the milky way properly was when we were on the south rim of the Grand Canyon and in Ethiopia where I grew up. The stars there seemed like diamonds in the sky.

MRW
Reply to  guereza2wdw
June 13, 2016 12:11 pm

“diamonds in the sky” seem like a hyperbolic metaphor until you’ve actually experienced what spawned it. Then it seems insufficient, and the grandeur of it, the unadulterated wonder, stays with you for life.

ATheoK
June 13, 2016 11:53 am

A rather alarming article. Unfortunately far over-hyped.
Yes, local light pollution disrupt vision of the night sky.
Yes, local light pollution is very bad in urban environments; and almost as bad in suburban environments that cater to major malls, strip malls and giant car dealerships.
But it is not as bad as the article makes out. Just thirteen miles, or over the horizon, minimizes the majority of light pollution. Thirty miles away from the light sources and the night sky is impressively stunning. Seventy miles away and night skies appear uninfluenced by mankind.
I am in favor of lighting rules that minimize light pollution, I am not in favor of aggressive government intervention. it doesn’t make economic sense to throw light an energy where it serves no purpose.
I have my doubts about many critters really being affected by night lights. A turtle that circumnavigates incredible distances to a specific beach is not following someone’s porch light instead of the moon.
Night hawks and bats circle in the dark above a light, occasionally dipping down to nab a juicy bug, apparently happy for the light making their work easy.
What is amazing is how the predators flying just outside of the light remind me of using lights for fishing; where the lights attract baitfish and predatory fish circle just outside of the light in the shadows.
For those urban elites who panic looking up into infinity; i.e. Apeirophobia
http://www.cloudynights.com/uploads/monthly_09_2011/post-48040-14073805896011.jpg

David Ball
June 13, 2016 11:58 am

Zeke June 13, 2016 at 11:34 am,
You make a great point, Zeke. With technology developed due to advancements only recently discovered ( the last ~100 years), we can see things in our universe never imagined. In one sense light pollution has decreased our ability to see with our eyes, yet technological development allows us to see much further and in spectrums unimaginable to earlier humans.
I take the time to be in places where I can see all the stars with my own eyes, and I take the time to follow stellar research to see things I could never see, much less understand with my own eyes.
Thank you Zeke, for helping me refine my perspective on this subject.

Reply to  David Ball
June 13, 2016 12:39 pm

We have wonderful views and expanded perception now, absolutely David Ball.
Being the parent of Digital Natives, I had hoped that one of my kids would take up astronomical photography:
Tutorial: Motion Timelapse of the Milky Way with Dynamic Perception Stage One and R

So far they are not that interested, although they are very busy with other creative projects.
I wish I had an excust to buy them a camera for time lapse exposures or a motorized slider for Christmas.

MRW
Reply to  Zeke
June 13, 2016 6:38 pm

The kid who did this video is excellent, just excellent.

June 13, 2016 12:04 pm

The Milky Way is very visible away from city lights and other light sources.
Here’s a view from Yosemite:
http://66.media.tumblr.com/fb125e3ddd327a677aeb7299395d1126/tumblr_ni7wizkAPp1qkfpxgo1_r3_500.jpg
And a view from Chile:
http://66.media.tumblr.com/b800e383cf7d2355aad61870260a4144/tumblr_nxa4su21c01tempjho1_500.jpg
Plenty more Milky Way pics here.

sonofametman
June 13, 2016 12:15 pm

Growing up in Scotland, and being a keen mountaineer, I’d seen plenty of bright night skies, or so I thought. My first real eye-opener was sleeping on a picnic table just off I-25 in New Mexico, when I was doing a drive-away delivery to Albuquerque to facilitate a climbing trip. Dazzling. I almost didn’t sleep at all, just looking up at the stars.
About a year later I was working on a drilling rig in the Great Sandy Desert in Northern Western Australia. Equally beautiful, especially after a shift change at midnight. I could just walk off into the darkness and gaze up. A bit disorienting though. Being used to the northern constellations, it took me a while to get my ‘fix’ and know which way was ‘up’.

PaulH
June 13, 2016 12:17 pm

Oh dear, “light pollution.” What next, will they start issuing permits to people so they can turn on their lights at night?
/snark

braddles
Reply to  PaulH
June 13, 2016 4:42 pm

It has been a major issue for astronomers for a long time. On the island of Hawaii, which has the biggest collection of major telescopes in the world, street lighting in towns is controlled and restricted to some extent. Street lights are of strictly controlled wavelengths, which the astronomers can filter from their images.

irregular
June 13, 2016 12:31 pm

I know all the junkies in my area hate all that nighttime light pollution, too. They go out of their way to avoid well-lit places.

littlepeaks
June 13, 2016 12:50 pm

I moved out here in northeastern Colorado Springs in 2001. I had one of the first houses built in this area — suburbs stopped at my front yard. I could see the Milky Way and shooting stars. One night, I was driving home, and my wife asked me what was wrong with the sky. I looked up, and it was Northern Lights — the sky was red, with tinges of green. I went home and looked at the space weather site, and the meter showing Bz was pegged at -60. That was the result of one of those giant solar flares that occurred at the time. Now, I live in the middle of “greater suburbia”. I can only see the Moon and the brightest stars. Wish we could go back to the way it was when we moved here. 🙁

Reply to  littlepeaks
June 13, 2016 5:43 pm

yep–isn’t something how folks move to the country and bring all the city BS with them. Could not believe how every home in my first urban escape location was lit up like day all night long. Fortunately where I have managed to wind up there is only one powerpole nightlight-about 1/4 mile away which I can block with the trees, and while the nearest city casts a distinct glow, it is low to the SE horizon and the view from my front yard is quite spectacular. For the first time in what has been a rather long life, I have seen the rings of Saturn through my telescope.

PJF
June 13, 2016 12:58 pm

As both an (amateur) astronomer and lover of civilisation, I have to say I am conflicted about this. Our cities and roads and lights, and all the progress that comes with them, are amazing and wonderful human achievements. But the visible cosmos is amazing and wonderful too, and we deprive ourselves of it for no good reason.
Just point the lights exclusively down at the ground.
I had no truck with activist astronomers who teamed up with the greens to turn the lights off. I said at the time that technology would eventually provide for energy efficient lighting and astronomers would be thrown under the bus. And I was right. Broadband LED lighting is a disaster for astronomy if it is carelessly pointed up into the sky, and most of what I’ve seen here in the UK is. Climate obsessed authorities don’t care, so long as they can tick the “LED” box.
Broadband LED lighting does offer an attractive night light if it’s done well. So…
Just point the lights exclusively down at the ground.
.

Michael Carter
June 13, 2016 1:08 pm

Well, for those of you who have not seen it, take solace from the fact that the detail of what you would see does not exist 🙂
Just seeing it is not really enough. To fully appreciate it one needs a very clear atmosphere. A frosty night is best here in NZ. I grew up with it and it remains the same
One situation that I suspect over 90% of humanity have not experienced is complete silence. I have experienced it on only 2 occasions: in a cave and in a desert at night

rocketscientist
June 13, 2016 2:49 pm

Whether a millennial will miss the Milky Way or not is a lamentable argument, but not as important as the cause of light pollution on nocturnal fauna. Ever wonder why moths are drawn to artificial lights? Its because the of the aeons of evolution that allowed them to navigate using the only night light available, the MOON. Now with millions of artificial lights illuminating the night the poor moths don’t stand a chance of navigating.

MRW
June 13, 2016 3:13 pm

An astrophysicist was on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me a couple of years ago. It was a rebroadcast. The astrophysicist had just won the Nobel (2011) so they had him on. He said 73% of the observable universe is invisible to us. We have no clue what’s out there. Another 25% is Dark Matter and they have no clue what it is either. We, and our instruments, can only see 3%.

H.R.
Reply to  MRW
June 14, 2016 12:33 pm

He said 73% of the observable universe is invisible to us.

OK. That one is w-a-y above my pay grade. How can it be invisible and observable at the same time? And how do we know it’s 73% when it’s invisible and “We, and our instruments, can only see 3%?
My guess is that there’s a good argument going on somewhere over those numbers.

gary@erko
June 13, 2016 3:16 pm

At Balranald, western NSW, Australia, we walked outside of town one evening and lay on the ground in an orchard to stare at the sky. When your eyes get used to it you can see the spiral arms of the galaxy.

June 13, 2016 3:26 pm

It is much more fun to remember my days as a bum than it was to live through them, but I discovered the rent at campgrounds was $25.00/week, and tended to camp during the warmer months. In some places they’d make me move out after a week, but other places let you stay if you were not a pest. In 1988 I moved out to Red Rock Campground west of Gallup, New Mexico on May 1 and stayed until October 23. The milky way became part of my life.
It is really wonderful to have such beauty to sleep with, especially when you’re so poor it is difficult to be a Don Juan. I developed abilities that I hardly noticed that others visiting the campground said were uncanny. For example, I knew what time it was by the position of the Big Dipper, and seemed to have a decent skill at forecasting the coming day’s chance of thunder by the brilliance of the stars.
It was a time I now recall fondly. They say “every cloud has its silver lining”, but out west it should have been, “Every hobo has his milky way.”
In 2015 I took my son to spend a night at that campground during a cross-country trip. They had added brilliant lighting, and paved the place for RV’s, and you couldn’t see a star. They called this “improving” the site. Americans have an odd idea of what camping is, these days. It is turning me into one of those grouchy old men who begins tales with, “When i was young, we…”

Reply to  Caleb
June 13, 2016 3:37 pm

Actually the campground is east of Gallup.

Carla
June 13, 2016 4:38 pm

Now that’s spiral arm wow…
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/1602/PinnaclesGalaxy_Goh_1080.jpg
Milky Way over the Pinnacles in Australia
Image Credit: Michael Goh

Carla
June 13, 2016 4:49 pm

Better yet, how about merger with Andromeda galaxy..
http://www.space.com/images/i/000/017/983/original/milky-way-andromeda-collision.jpg
This photo illustration depicts a view of the night sky just before the predicted merger between our Milky Way galaxy and the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. Image released May 31, 2012.
Credit: NASA, ESA, Z. Levay and R. van der Marel (STScI), and A. Mellinger
Collision course
Not only is the Milky Way spinning, it is also moving through the universe. Despite how empty space might appear in the movies, it is filled with dust and gas — and other galaxies. The massive collections of stars are constantly crashing into one another, and the Milky Way is not immune.
In about four billion years, the Milky Way will collide with its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. The two are rushing towards each other at about 70 miles per second (112 km per second). When they collide, they will provide a fresh influx of material that will kick of star formation anew.
The Andromeda Galaxy is obviously not the most careful of drivers. It shows signs of having already crashed into another galaxy in the past. Although it is the same age as the Milky Way, it hosts a large ring of dust in its center, and several older stars.
Of course, the imminent collision shouldn’t be a problem for inhabitants of Earth. By the time the two galaxies ram headlong, the sun will already have ballooned into a red giant, making our planet uninhabitable.
– See more at: http://www.space.com/19915-milky-way-galaxy.html#sthash.Be8NioZy.dpuf

RoHa
Reply to  Carla
June 13, 2016 7:47 pm

“In about four billion years, the Milky Way will collide with its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy.”
See? We’re doomed!

H.R.
Reply to  RoHa
June 14, 2016 12:23 pm

I’m staying up late for that one, RoHa. It should be spectacular!

Bohdan Burban
June 13, 2016 6:01 pm

Where would we be without ‘light pollution’? Just like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed on bullshit.

T. Madigan
June 13, 2016 8:04 pm

Great post, Anthony; thanks for shining the spotlight (pun intended) on this very important issue, one that is long overdue for broad public discussion. I’ve reblogged it and added my own personal story as an introduction: https://astronomytopicoftheday.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/milky-way-now-hidden-from-one-third-of-humanity .
Aside from preserving the night sky, protecting the habitats of many nocturnal animals, fauna and flora, the proper functioning of all circadian rhythms (a number of compelling studies have been completed that show a direct correlation between the incidence of certain cancers and 2nd and 3rd shift workers) and the annual deaths of tens of thousands of birds that fly into buildings with the lights on 24×7, its a quality of life issue too – if you like the lights of Times Square, then go live in the city.
Regarding the observatories on the Large Island of Hawaii, I’m sure their lighting ordinances are such that any new lights will be full-cutoff LED fixtures with older fixtures grandfathered in – as older fixtures age and need to be replaced, the LED fixtures are installed. Most new LED fixtures are designed as “defacto” full cutoff fixtures by design, or done so as a response to over-lighting and urban sprawl. No one advocating for Dark Skies is suggesting that we plunge everyone into darkness, just a sensible application of modern lighting technology with an eye towards 100% full-cutoff (no up light above the horizontal).

Johann Wundersamer
June 13, 2016 8:16 pm

weads wieder noamal –
midnightlightromancers. Tuh!

Manfred
June 14, 2016 12:13 am

‘Light pollution’, an absurd inverted techno-snobism. Pure oxymoron, unadulterated cultural Marxism.

Reply to  Manfred
June 20, 2016 8:51 am

‘Light pollution’, an absurd inverted techno-snobism. Pure oxymoron, unadulterated cultural Marxism.

Sorry, I strongly disagree, I like looking at stars, and to image deep space objects background lighting makes a huge difference. And while I’d love to move out into the wilderness, it is not possible.
And mostly I’m not asking for anyone (other than my neighbors 🙂 ) to do without lights, I do ask they use lighting that minimizes light pollution, which in many cases is even cheaper than poor lighting.

Mark - Helsinki
June 14, 2016 12:30 am

Complete nonsense.
In Ireland or in Finland I only have to travel outside the city, where there are no lights, and on cloudless nights you can see it all.
In Dublin all one needed to do was go to Phoenix Park and you could use your telescope, or anywhere in the countryside.
It’s simply city lights. Clouds and not much else obscuring the night sky

Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
June 14, 2016 10:33 pm

I strongly disagree, background light greatly impacts deep space astrophotography, driving 30 is only slightly better, a 200 miles and you still to find a locally dark place, but I have a larger amount of equipment I need to power. And with proper lighting it could be far better.

TonyG
June 14, 2016 7:25 am

“In the U.S., some of our national parks are just about the last refuge of darkness – places like Yellowstone and the desert southwest”
From my NC home, not in a national park, I can see it on a clear summer night.
Never could see it from anyplace I lived in CA though..

South River Independent
June 14, 2016 9:54 pm

Another benefit of rising sea levels. Eventually all the lights will be out (think waterworld), we will be out to sea, and the night sky will be visible to all.

%d bloggers like this: