Light Pollution and Why It Sucks

This week’s regular rant will focus on another of my pet peeves – light pollution.


If it’s night-time when you’re reading this, go outside, let your eyes dark adjust and count how many stars you can see. It it’s any less than “innumerable”, “a hell of a lot”, or “holy fuckballs that’s a lot of stars”, you have 99 problems and one of them is light pollution.

You still haven’t gone outside? Well, get to it then! Not enough people appreciate, or can appreciate the majesty of the night sky these days.

Finished seeing whether you can pick out constellations yet? If you’re one of the lucky few in an area without much light pollution, you should clearly be able to pick out all of the major constellations currently in the sky, plus you’ll be able to see a band of stars across the sky, interspersed with dust lanes and visible structure, and for truly dark sites at the right time of year, faint reddish nebulosity.

You should be able to see your shadow, cast by starlight, at a truly dark site.


Now, why is light pollution a huge problem? Aside from the negative physiological effects that it has on wildlife and people?

Simply put, the more light pollution there is, the less contrast there is between the background night sky and the stars and nebulae that you can see, resulting in less perceived brightness, and fewer visible stars.

I hate it.


Having lived all my life in suburbia, I could see the brighter stars, sure, and vaguely make out the shape of the Milky Way due to the increased density of stars in the area. It wasn’t until quite recently that I made it to some truly dark sites, and just stood and marvelled a little (a lot) at the true magnitude of what I was missing in the skies above my home.

This is a picture taken from my front yard, processed to minimise light pollution. Terrible is an understatement.


Australia is lucky in that even in major cities, one only really has to drive maybe an hour and half, two hours at most, and then you’ll be in dark skies. Drive a little further and you’ll be away from civilisation entirely, and in truly dark skies. I don’t really want to think what European or SE-Asian amateur astronomers have to deal with, the skies are bad enough here.


Stay angry my friends.

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