Who turned off the stars? Light pollution
A star field in the constellation Cepheus.
April 5th, 2012
03:12 PM ET

Who turned off the stars? Light pollution

When you look up at the night sky on a clear night, you probably mutter "wow, look at all those stars." Well, if you live anywhere near a big city, you don't know the half of it.

What you may not realize is that you're suffering from light pollution. The sky is so washed out by excess urban lighting that instead of seeing thousands and thousands of stars, you may be seeing only hundreds - or sadly, maybe only dozens.

And, as we lose sight of more and more stars to light pollution, we lose a connection to the universe. We may even lose a little bit of our souls.

Click on the audio player above to learn more.

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Filed under: In Space
soundoff (390 Responses)
  1. Sam

    Is there any evidence or discussion of when modern urban dwellers began to notice the impact of light pollution? Did people in cities in 1900 see significantly more stars even in a downtown area than people can see today? I ask only because it must be a fairly recent phenomenon that the urban sky is so sadly evacuated. What a price to pay for "progress." And how astonishing that so many people don't have any real counter-experience to even know what they're missing! How far back does awareness of this problem go – late 19th century? Early 20th century? S

    April 29, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
    • P Edward Murray

      The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) was created in 1988. Amateur Astronomers have been noticing this for years as they are the folks who look at the stars. For the most part the public doesn't look up and doesn't notice but during the last few years we've gotten some pretty good press.

      April 29, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
      • Sam

        Thanks – I will look up the IDA website. In truth my questions reflect to some degree pure curiosity. This "evacuation" of the sky obviously was gradual over several decades, on the one hand, so that people became accustomed to it inter-generationally. On the other hand, the transformation of the urban night sky is so complete that I can only imagine it would terrify a person of the 18th century if he or she were transported suddenly into your average mall parking lot. So I'm curious what record exists of people beginning to notice this transformation? Do poets of the 19th or early 20th century remark it? Did people even celebrate it as a sign of the ascendancy of the man-made over the celestial? Did it seem like a small price to pay for the advantages of city life? I guess I'm pondering how something as fundamental as communing with the night sky became a dispensable feature of human experience. Because clearly it meant an awful lot to human experience through most of the millenia that we've been recognizably "human." Most peculiar.

        April 29, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
  2. olivergreen

    i m lucky enough to see the stars almost every day and really they look awesome .i m living in a little town so i don't have many thing which people have in big cities but i have those things which you people dream
    Heal the Green

    July 21, 2012 at 4:11 am |
  3. Trent

    Photoshopped starfield 🙁

    April 17, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  4. Donna Newman

    Has anyone else noticed how the sky isn't BLUE anymore? It's milky, some days nearly white with a bluish tint. I wonder how widespread this is....is there true blue sky anywhere anymore? All the particulate/smoggy pollution in the air spreads out in a layer that is easily visible from an airplane and increases around cities. I noticed this in the 70's around New York City and it's has constantly gotten worse, so that now the dirty layer seems to extend everywhere. This layer has got to contribute to the problem of light pollution, causing light from cities to bounce around and reflect even more. Has anyone noticed this phenomenon over wilderness?

    April 11, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  5. turp Griswald

    Wanna know why gas costs $4 a gallon. Just look up.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  6. Grumpster

    At this rate, the creationists will gain more power because they'll be able to go back to a sun-centric universe theory and keep the idiocy momentum building because people wont have anything left skyward to relate to except a myth book and fake science.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  7. Adirondacks

    I live in the mountains and can still enjoy the stars. What's frustrating is when people from the cities come up here and build vacation homes, then light the heck out of them. They're so used to living in NJ (and yes, that's where I grew up, too) that they think lights add "security."

    What they don't realize is that a security light only helps if there's a neighbor close by who would actually SEE the intruder and call the police. If your neighbor is a quarter of a mile away, all your "security" light is doing is helping the burglar see better as he's breaking into your house.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  8. Al Gore

    Light pollution is causing global warming

    April 10, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  9. Wilford Brimley

    I'd like to talk to yeh fer a few minutes about diabeetus.

    April 10, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  10. Jack Ass

    We oughta blow up the cities dayum!

    April 10, 2012 at 12:59 am |
  11. Styx Hexenhammer

    Here in Vermont we have no big cities, so there is virtually no light pollution. You city slickers should drop by and give us more of your big city money while you scarf down our 4.50 a pint ice cream and our 5 dollar an ounce maple syrup.

    April 10, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  12. Wastrel

    "Nightfall" by Isaac Asimov was published in the 1940's, I think. The Sun is the biggest light polluter of all - you usually can't see a single star during the daytime! Major observatories have been built away from cities for 50 years (my estimate, without looking it up). Light pollution is nothing new, and unless we enter another Dark Age, it's here to stay.

    April 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • EricNoot

      Not to be picky, but obviously there is a star that you can see during the daytime, the Sun itself! 🙂

      April 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  13. engineer long time

    Learning the constalations is best without light pollution. Students can learn how to use them for navigation. Since most students would use a GPS, they will be lost when the battery goes dead. A picture is always better than a sketch, if you realy want to learn more.

    April 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  14. Richard

    I'm lucky. I live in Wyoming, where the stars still come out at night...

    April 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  15. Sad State

    Sara – please.

    April 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  16. ug

    Prove it...

    April 9, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  17. Hawaiian Wahine

    I am SO lucky to live on the Big Island of Hawaii– home to the many telescopes atop Mauna Kea. Ground lights along the Kohala coast & Kona district are starting to have some negative affects, but on most nights I can step out side & just be amazed & stunned all over again at the incredible night sky. The stars in the sky are probably what I miss the most when I spend time back on the mainland.

    April 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  18. Wesley

    They should've posted a picture or two of what the sky looks like in a dark-sky location vs. what it looks like in cities. Great article though.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  19. Don

    This is why I will never stay at a Motel 6. They leave the light on, and that's not good.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Don

      Motel 6...now that's funny. But seriously folks, it CAN be dealt with at NO COST!!!!! AND even save money.....you know, decrease our dependence on foreign oil????I thought you guys were like WAY into that????? ANYWAY, many states have ordinances slowly going into affect that are dealing with this, slowly. Such as, type of street lamp, direction they face, parking lot lamps point down and not up etc. NOT rocket science.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  20. Andy

    There should be mandatory "dark nights" i think.

    2 years ago i witnessed something sad; a bird calling as if it were sunrise at 2 am. This was due to a bright lamp high enough for the poor thing to confuse it with the sun.

    Street lamps need to be constructed so they only fire down and never out to the sides. Parking lot lights should have motion sensors to both reduce electrical usage and reduce overall brightness of an area. Also, do we really need store signs lit all night?

    – A

    April 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  21. Justin Bieblet

    Sodium orange lights are the worst lights anyone could have invented. They are what also seems to predominantly light up the night sky. that along with pollution for the light to be further enhanced at night. But I bet if it was darker in cities crime would be higher..

    April 9, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  22. paullubbock

    Nothing a good camping trip in the woods or desert west can't fix maybe folks need to get out more. The whole lost soul thing it way to melodramatic.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  23. Walter Johnson

    The sad aspect of light pollution is that much of it could have been inexpensively avoided, and is sharply reduced in
    Tucson, Arizona, in order to keep the famous mountain top observatories near there. All it really takes is more black asphalt instead of concrete and street lights shaded with large caps that keep the light pointing down rather than in all directions. Even homeowners can help with the right choice in porch lights that light where you walk rather than obstruct your vision looking up to the sky.

    The ski looks far more interesting when viewed from a tall mountain that is far away from a city. In fact such as sky makes the existence of our own Milky Way galaxy totally obvious since it almost looks like a translucent cirrus cloud with stars so dense along the plain of the galaxy. Even comets and meteors (shooting stars) look so much brighter and even far larger than in other areas. The sky in such places is a special joy especially on no moon nights (when the moon is not a source of light pollution too). In fact on one such night on a mountain side in rural Colorado I wanted to sleep in the open just so I could enjoy the stars.

    April 9, 2012 at 6:41 am |
  24. LMD

    A good story,but politicize it as some have done on here is rather childish.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  25. Jason

    tell me something I didnt already know from common sense

    April 8, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  26. iceload9

    "Light pollution" this stupidity is why we are a nation in decline.

    April 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
  27. justicefor7

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    April 8, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
  28. Martin

    To appreciate how many stars you could see, take a gaze thru a pair of 10 x 50mm binoculars.

    April 8, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
  29. Damon

    So unfortunate. When you are in a dark area and you look up, you are arrested by the night sky. It's sad to know that future generations won't be able to appreciate unless they go look it. I guess that is true with any one subject, but to just tilt your head back and see it from any perspective would remind us that we are a grain of sand in a desert....and today, I think that is needed.

    April 8, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  30. Keith B Rosenberg

    Are streetlights necessary in the vast numbers there are?

    April 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Justin Bieblet

      who knows. i hate when i'm driving at night and come to an area where there is a long row of street lights (the ones on the highways around cities). I love driving while it's pitch black.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  31. No more beauty Noreen

    Vacationing at Split Rock Cabins on Lake Superiors North shore was a delight as a child. Watching the moon rise across the lake, the beauty of all the stars I couldn't see living in St. Paul, MN. Now after returning to she shore 20 plus years later I was disgusted by what has happened. The Department of Natural Resources has capitalized on the surrounding rivers and parks and have built campgrounds and gift shops and have illuminated the highways and parking lots so brightly it has literally destroyed the view along the shore. Being 6 miles from the light house, and 4 miles from Gooseberry Falls, those lake shore areas in between have lost their original beauty. All that is visible is the glare from these massive lighting systems. Lights that are on 24/7/365 even after hours. No longer are the stars visible. No longer can you see the flicker of a shore campfire. All you see for that 10 mile stretch are the lights placed by our DNR.
    Light pollution is a problem and those that are supposed to care and protect our environment (said DNR) have destroyed the original beauty.

    April 8, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  32. JT

    This is about more than just seeing the sky at night, and it's not that anyone wants to live in pitch-black cities. The fact is, the kind of lighting currently employed wastes an incredible amount of energy by spewing light up into the sky. Shining all that light upwards doesn't help you see the ground any better. It's just wasted.

    The long-term savings alone (and the figures are out there if you care to look) should be enough reason for anyone to get behind modernizing our lighting infrastructure. And as a bonus, you get free access to one of the most amazing sights in existence; the natural night sky.

    April 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  33. ArchieDeBunker

    Obviously there is no little amount of angst about this matter – most of it wasted, because nothing will ever be done about it. However, there is a better way to see a lot more about the Universe than just going out where it's dark and looking up. Find the pictures on the Internet that have been sent back by the Hubble Telescope and read about the realtive sizes of things. Like – did you know that "The Big Dog Star" (Canis Majoris) is the biggest star we know about. How big? It would take four quadrillion Earths to make up a ball as big as Canis Majoris. To put that into perspective, if the earth were the size of a golf ball, the number of golf balls would cover the state of Texas to a depth of almost two feet. The Big Bang? Sure it happened! God said "Let There Be Light" – and the Universe came streaming out of His mouth (His Word) at the speed of light – and has been expanding ever since!

    April 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  34. Leif

    If you can't see the universe around you, you should do yourself a favor and spend a few nights in the country with binoculars.

    April 8, 2012 at 3:57 am |
    • stateschool

      Hunting wabbits?

      April 8, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  35. Rick Springfield

    Used to watch the Russian spy satellites that went from South to North and scanned US installations with considerable quality. This was before we had any satellites in space. We did not know that at the time, Russia had men in those satellites taking pictures using highly sophisticated control mechanisms. They would then use scanning systems to transmit the photos to a central control. They were able to know what was going on in the USA before our own military leaders knew. They could read a tag on cars. I remember looking up as a kid and seeing them pass many times in the night. That place where we did that now has many high pressure sodium vapor lights so its not as good now.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  36. Traffic

    Who Cares... I grew up in the City. Luckily I can afford to go to the country and/or vacation on a cruise AND... I still don't care. Who cares about ancient constelations that have no relavance to modern life.

    Let's worry about the starving poor on this planet, the state of health care in America, and maybe figure out a way to bail out the Greeks whose constellations you so admire...

    April 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • JT

      In other words you wholeheartedly support the idea of modernizing our city lighting. You must, because anyone concerned about wasted money will no doubt be aware of how much energy (which costs money) is wasted by old lighting tech that pointlessly shines up into the sky.

      Good to have you onboard!

      April 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  37. Sally

    Anybody who has ever been camping already knows this.

    April 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  38. cat

    This is why I hate the mor-menz. They have insisted on buidling an overlit temple in my 'semi-rural' neighborhood which ahs fought street lights for 25+ years. It's going in right across the stree from a conservation park. Good bye ecosystem. And light pollution is being implicated in causing breast cancer- about where second hand smoke wad 20 years ago. But god told them ot put it there. Bah. No, it's their arrogant hubris. The spires isn't point ot heaven, it's giving mother nature the finger.

    April 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  39. davey

    Where did barry soetoro get the money to attend harvard?

    April 7, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  40. blessedgeek

    "Light pollution" as in "mild pollution" or "illumination pollution"?

    April 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  41. Not Disclosed

    If you turn them off light speeds away at 100s of thousands of miles per second. A soda can or condom laying around doesn't. Light pollution: that is so moronically stupid... This writer should report to a disintegration chamber...

    April 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  42. P. Edward Murray'

    To all those who scoff at the idea of Light Pollution look at this video on Vimeo called "The Mountain"

    The colors are real but can't be sensed by the eye.

    April 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • P. Edward Murray'


      April 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  43. bob

    People leaving lights on at night is just another example of how the American IQ has declined and the degree of stupidy has climbed. First of all leaving an outside light on at night is plain stupid, it does not keep animals away and it does not keep criminals away (in fact just the opposite because now they can see without a flashlite). Next we have all the businesses who think either they are advertizing (who is out at night shopping) or keeping the crooks away (Wrong). The crooks lookout simply tells his buddies the cops are coming but with NO light the police can stop a flashlite shining pretty easy. So folks TURN OFF you stupid lights and enjoy the night.

    April 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  44. Ace

    I think light pollution is a great way to let the aliens know where to aim.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  45. johnqpublic

    the stars are one of the things i miss now that i live in the suburbs.

    April 7, 2012 at 11:22 am |
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    April 7, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  47. Leif

    The universe is beautiful. It is a shame that an ever decreasing percentage of sentient life on this planet can see it.

    April 7, 2012 at 4:13 am |
  48. your neighbor

    If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you don't see this as a problem, I pity that you don't understand.

    April 7, 2012 at 4:06 am |
  49. Leif

    Astronomy and physics should be high school requirements.

    April 7, 2012 at 3:28 am |
  50. mrios

    there's always the google sky map

    April 7, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • Leif

      That is a truly sad remark.

      April 7, 2012 at 3:22 am |
  51. Marine5484

    I don't have a problem seeing any of the stars when i'm using my NVG's

    April 7, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  52. Rod Venger

    Adults, by their nature, rarely look up. It's a shame snce there's so much more to see than what's on the ground or horizontally. I look up in trees, at the sky, as there's far more interesting things up there. People that have lived their lives in big cities or just never go outdoors don't know what they're missing. Even from a big city, the amazing sight of the Milky Way is just a few hours drive away. Get away from the lights...drive south of your city so you have a good southern view not impeded by the glow of city lights. Deserts are good, as are mountains and even the plains. Get out away from the lights, shut off your car, drag some lounges out next to the car, put out any lights and just wait until your eyes acclimate to the darkness. No flashlights, lighters, fires...nothing but star light. And as your eyes dilate and grow accustomed to the darkness, just look up and enjoy the show. It's really easier laying on a lounge so you don't have to crane your neck to look up. Those 'clouds' you see aren't clouds in the sky. They are clouds of stars and dust many millions of light-years away. You'll see the neatest stuff with your peripheral vision. Nebulas and smudges of light that you often can't quite make out if you look directly at them. Those may well be other galaxies far outside of our own galaxy. Further, many cities turn down the lights after midnight and in smaller cities you can get great views even without leaving the city limits if you can just avoid lights within your field of view. There's much to see even in a small town especially. Kill the lights, don't look at any streetlamps or the neighbors lights...nothing. Just look up after letting your eyes adjust. If you're older and waking up at 4am every night, why not walk outside, plop a chair down and watch the skies? Just don't look at the lights and don't have any lights on. You can even see satellites moving across the sky, faint dots moving fairly quickly across the sky. There's websites that will allow you to predict where and when a given satellite will appear over your head. There are a lot of them up there to watch for too! There's a whole universe out there and most people never take the trouble to check it out.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  53. Missing Link

    The article is misleading. It says there are "thousands and thousands of stars" you could see if it were not for the light polution. In fact there are only about 2000 stars visible to the naked eye in the entire sky under the best of conditions.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Rod Venger


      April 6, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
      • Missing Link

        What do you mean WRONG? There are only 1602 stars of magnitude 5 or brighter. Even if you include magnitude 6 stars (which MOST people are unable to see with the naked eye) there are about 4800. How many do you see from YOUR planet?

        April 7, 2012 at 2:36 am |
    • Leif

      You are forgetting the Milky Way. The human eye can't make them out as individual stars, but it represents thousands and thousands of stars collectively.

      April 7, 2012 at 3:14 am |
      • Missing Link

        I am not forgetting the milky way, but as you said, you can not see individual stars in the milky way, the same as you can not see individual stars in the Andromeda galaxy even though you can see a faint blotch of light.

        April 7, 2012 at 3:46 am |
  54. pacman357

    My wife and I live in a rural area in the NW. The nearest street light is about a mile away. The difference at night vs. a night in a big city is amazing.

    April 6, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  55. mikea

    Coincidentally (or not?), I read an article just yesterday I think on cnn.com (can't fine it now) about a city replacing out street lights with new LED versions to save power, and neighborhood people there saying how nice it was that they could sit on their porch with all the new light, and walk the streets like it was daytime! I just couldn't believe it!

    April 6, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  56. Chris

    I was just in the Owen's river valley in California near Bishop. The area is wedged between two mountain ranges and the biggest town for 100 miles is about 3000 people. I just about fell over when I first looked up. The entire sky is covered with stars. There really aren't any empty gaps – just areas where the stars are too dim to see in the city. I literally saw a shooting star about once per minute. Spectacular.

    April 6, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  57. solex

    From all the religous nonsense I am seeing here, I always revert to Carl Sagan – A champion of understanding the iniverse. He was asked if he believed in God. His answer:

    "I don't want to believe. I want to know."

    April 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • solex

      Meant universe.

      April 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  58. Doug

    This is a short term problem that will go away as LED lighting (which is more directional) takes over usage in external environments.

    April 6, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • EricNoot

      It would be great if that was all there was to it, however, white LEDs have a strong blue light component to them. Blue lights is the "zeitgeber", the biological external timing cue, that tells our bodies to not to make melatonin, which is the hormone we need that tells our bodies to undergo cellular clean up, DNA repair, in addition to being a terminal, free radical scavenger. We could have gone with LEDs years ago using just yellow LEDs, which would look no worse than the low pressure sodium vapor lamps. But no one has done it.

      April 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  59. Jack

    What we really need is to spend billions of dollars on research to develop some sort of force field that will deflect all the "light pollution" orthoganally to the direction of incoming star light,... I can't even finish this with a straight face.

    April 6, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  60. studdmuffins

    If it's a choice of seeing stars and being mugged or not seeing stars and being safe I'll take the latter.

    Want stars? Go to sea or head for the country. You'll see plenty of stars.

    April 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  61. Jack

    Imagine walking the streets of New York City with no street lights.

    April 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • EricNoot

      Well Jack, look up the events during that blackout in 2003 in NYC and you'll find out the lack of crime that occurred then.

      April 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  62. wes

    oh yes. I have this problem in wichita KS where I live. its very hard to see any detail in planets when looking threw my massive telescope. ive only seen a complete black sky once in my life. on normal nights theres maybe 30 stars out. the little diper is always washed out, and the entire northern sky is washed out from mc connel AFB. very sad how you never see a star filled night here anymore. instead I have to drag my telesope and my computer out to KS/OK line to see even halfway decent stars

    April 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  63. Nimon

    Here is your basic problem

    – Light Pollution prevents us from seeing the starts (which is bad because our children can not enjoy the night sky like we did)

    – Dark streets/Highways/etc where crime grows and/or people get hurt and sue others.

    It is clear where reality is because we have a lot of lights at the expense of the sky. Now get rid of crime and lawsuits and I am sure the need to light pollution will disappear just like the lights.

    April 6, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • EricNoot

      Nimon, the crime stats that you suggest are not true. The FBI Burglary Crime Statistics show that for years, more burglary occurs during the daytime, than the night. It is only the fear of the night that makes people turn their lights on. A static light left on actually aids criminals in their activities at night for now they do not have to carry a flashlight to see what they are doing and so point themselves out. The City of Chicago in the year 2000 did a study called the The Chicago Alley Lighting Project in which they increased the light levels in alleys, viaducts and streets threefold, only to discover the police department report an INCREASE in crime at night. It appears that criminals need light too.

      If your neighbor creates noise, bad smells or is obscene, you can get the police to take care of that immediately. Yet, try to get help against a neighbor that creates too much light which equally interferes with your sleep, and they won't raise a finger for you.

      April 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  64. Sara

    On the other hand, light pollution can make it easier to learn the major constellations.

    April 6, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Ryan

      I think you could learn them just fine if you had a few more stars to look at. I applaud your optimism, but that's still a ridiculous thing for you to say.

      April 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Missing Link

      It is only easier to find the major constellations because you are used to seeing them that way.

      April 6, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Cory

      No, Sara's right.

      When confronted with a truly dark sky without the moon or light pollution, it's difficult to pick out the major constellations. Beautiful as it may be, the "noise" makes learning astronomy challenging, especially since the brightest stars are used as landmarks to find fainter objects. However, once you get a grasp for the patterns and know where each constellation should be during each season, then you'll find yourself craving darker skies to find the rare gems hidden by the light pollution.

      Luckily for me, a half-hour drive out of Denver offers very dark nights.

      April 6, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
      • Missing Link

        They are difficult for you to pick out when you see all the stars because you are USED to seeing only the brighter stars. There are several constellations that that only have a few stars bright enought to be seen from a city. This makes them difficult to identify unless you know where they are in relation to other constellations.

        April 7, 2012 at 2:51 am |
      • Cory

        I thought the original statement was about _learning_ the constellations. When I'm trying to teach someone where they are, I prefer to do it under light pollution conditions, be it light from the city or the moon. Once the basic patterns are familiar, then it's easier to pick them out when the dark skies are is in its full splendor.

        Very similar to playing a full symphony to someone unfamiliar with classical music and trying to point out the cello. However, once they hear it by itself, then they can do it. The excess light is just a filter... the same effect could be accomplished by putting on weak sunglasses.

        April 7, 2012 at 7:05 am |
      • P. Edward Murray'

        Learning the constellations? Better in a light polluted area?

        Look, the problem with that viewpoint is that you forget that :


        "BRIGHTEST STARS".....

        April 7, 2012 at 11:56 am |
      • bignevermo

        Hey Corey, been to the Chamberlain Observatory at the U of D? its an old Histroic 20" refractor scope...I went there a couple years ago and they have a nice "open House" some nights! check it out...course having a scope in the MTNS would be better. there must be some amatuer clubs that go up in the MTns right? anyway...all I gotta do is go a few miles west and i am in the Glades...so i can escape the "pollution" too! 🙂 as to better teaching? i copuld see both sides having an advantage...for some it is not easy picking out the constellations amoungst all of those atrs...just sayin!

        April 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
      • Rick

        That simply is not true. While you may have a lot more stars visible without the light pollution, the stars you do see now will also be correspondingly brighter so they stand out just as much. I grew up in the country and had no trouble learning the constellations as a young amateur astronomer. I would give up the light pollution in a minute if possible.

        April 9, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Leif

      Only if you are too lazy too lazy to make an effort to understand what you are looking at.

      April 7, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • Leif

      On the other hand, it is easier to understand the world you live in when you can see it.

      April 7, 2012 at 3:21 am |
      • Sandman

        I like them better at 35000 feet. The was the best part of night flying.

        April 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • AstroD

      As an astrophysicist, I think that's a rather silly statement. With light pollution, one loses sight of many of the stars that make up the constellations. Besides, all stars within the boundaries of a constellation, as defined by the International Astronomical Union, are considered part of that constellation.

      April 8, 2012 at 7:02 am |
      • Martha Gay

        I recall having difficulty picking out the constellations on a trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It was so beautiful, I just reckoned that as a testament to how dark it was. At star parties at really dark sites, it's not a problem because the bright stars pop out first. There's usually a decent period of twilight.

        April 8, 2012 at 9:09 am |
      • John

        I'm with the astrophysicist on this: we're losing sight of stars IN the constellation as well as those surrounding it. Not only that, but there are other things you can see under a dark sky you can't see in light pollution. I was out at my astronomy club's semi-dark site 80 miles west of Houston this past Saturday (I say semi-dark as we are suffering from light encroachment). Before the moon began to rise, I could make out several naked-eye open clusters besides the Pleiades. At times I can make out M31 and Omega Centauri naked-eye. Under light-polluted skies, these amazing objects are lost.

        I also remember one night when I thought a cloud was drifting in and was sure I was going to have to stop imaging for the night... then I realized that "cloud" was the Milky Way.

        There's really no good way to spin light pollution.

        April 9, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • stateschool

      I like to cut down trees so I can see birds better.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:49 am |
      • your neighbor

        lol! excellent way to put it!

        April 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
      • Matt

        Nice emotionally based straw man argument. As if man can permanently blot out the stars. Get a grip.

        April 9, 2012 at 8:41 am |
      • seriously

        matt, you sir are the one that needs to get a grip. it was a joke. and a funny one

        April 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
      • freakinFunny

        that sir is hilarious!!

        April 10, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • SFC Mike

      H. A. Rey's (author of Curious George) book "The Stars" is the best way to learn the constellations, regardless of light pollution. It makes the shapes sensible. I used it as a kid and to teach my son and daughter. Living in coastal urban areas now, we're lucky to see 100 stars in the sky, but whether here or in the high elevation desert under perfect conditions, it is easy to recognize many constellations.

      April 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Pat Blue

      No it doesn't make it easier it just limits the number of constellations you can see. My husband is an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer and light pollution really affects him. I am a member of the Autubon Society and light pollution really affects bird life too. People think that they are safer if everything is lit up like it was day but that isn't always the case. We can have motion activated lights that protect and are only on when needed. There are also special lights that direct the light where it is needed and not everywhere.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • FauxNews

      More optimistically...with a little more urban light we would not have to learn constellations at all, lol.

      April 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Don

      You can see the constellations better????? I want to be able to see the forest better at night, so I'm going to set it on fire....
      1. An ignorant statement..(not stupid)..period.
      2. WHY are you arguing about it? She simply COMPLETELY missed the point.

      April 10, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • lawnboy

      You realize that there actually are no constellations, right. So before you flame poor Cory you should remember that what you are talking about doesn't actually exist.

      Now, that being said, appreciating stars is wonderful. I remember being in northern Saudi Arabia in 2000-2001, it was so bright you could see perfectly well on a moonless night. On a full moon night you could play baseball. I can drive back on logging roads in the Cascade mountains today and get a sky nearly as bright on a good night, although the constant cloud cover in the PNW makes it a crapshoot.

      When they draw pics of a constellation in a textbook they show the major stars. They don't show them all. The major stars of the major constellations are perfectly visible on a clear night in the city. I totally see Cory's point and I think the rest of you are star snobs.

      April 12, 2012 at 1:07 am |
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