How bright the night,
(Give me a night that’s dark.
A night that’s clear.
A sky that is full of glittering stars.
A sky looking back in time.
Give me a sky that’s clean.
A sky of the darkest hue.
A night full of happy dreams.
A night looking back in time.)
The farthest light we detect is the farthest time in the past that we can see. Human eyes are limited and any light added to the atmosphere limits the dimness of the stars we can see.
When did we lose the dark night skies? I’m sure the first man-made fires made a difference, but not much. Certainly less than the full moon – which totally ruins any good meteor shower. Nowadays we are plagued by night skies that are anything but truly dark. Part of the problem is our atmosphere. We have one and it scatters light everywhere. The moon has essentially no atmosphere and so has a daytime of dark skies.
Well, we need our atmosphere because we breathe. But if we had a clean atmosphere with no light pollution, we would have dark skies and a clearer vision of the past. Almost everyone understands how unhealthy smog is even if many don’t know that smog hides the stars. Sadly, most people don’t understand the how light pollution also curtails our enjoyment of the dark night skies.
Light pollution is the bane of astronomers everywhere. I’m not sure even Antarctica is safe! Astronomers are not the only people directly affected, though. Consider people in the arts or who care about the arts. Everything changes when the night sky becomes dull and murky. What poet will compare anything to the number of stars in the sky when there are only about six anyone can make out! Imagine it:
Poet: “My love is endless as the number of stars in the sky”
Reader: “Wow, that sucks. Someone’s hedging their bets”
And what about the well known metaphor of “shining like diamonds in the sky?” Imagine “Starry Night” painted nowadays.
Is there a remedy? Of course there is. Turn off the lights if we don’t need them and if we do, make sure the light is directed only toward where it needs to be.