The Sky at Night

Here’s something that matters. April 14 – 20, 2012 is International Dark Sky Week. Do you remember looking at the stars when you were a little kid? Did you sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and then go check to see if they really do twinkle? Things have changed since our childhoods. There are more people living in the world, and we have turned on more lights. I really wonder about the need for the glare of our civilization to be visible from space.

When I first moved to my little cottage here, I could step out on the deck to see if the Big Dipper was upside down or right side up or somewhere in between. In the fall, I used to watch Orion’s position from my front porch. But now my neighbors leave lights on all night. I’ve made light-blocking shades so I can sleep, but I can no longer see the Big Dipper very well. It’s not until I get out to the backcountry in the summer that the full glory of the stars showers down on my imagination. The Milky Way stretches like a handle across the bowl of the night. Planets glitter, shooting stars crease my wondering vision, satellites trundle along in their orbit, and constellations move with stately grace. Even in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, there is a faint orange glow to the west. The Puget Sound area is not that far away, and the light spills into the mountains. This makes me sad and angry. It’s so unnecessary. A waste.

No lights stay on at my house in the night, and I am gathering the gumption to talk to my neighbors. At the website linked above, there’s an example of a letter to guide the conversation. I challenge all of us to try to do a little something to help. The children of today deserve to see the stars twinkling.

Go out and marvel at the night sky. Take someone with you and marvel together. Remember the first constellation you learned, the first time you saw the Northern Lights. Watch the moon wax and wane. Don’t be afraid of the dark.

One thought on “The Sky at Night

  1. Where I live, there are so many street lights and other lights that I can barely see even the brightest stars on a clear night. When I was a kid living in the country, there were no houses to be seen from our house and we didn’t have yard lights that came on at dusk and went off at dawn. IT WAS DARK! There were lots of stars to be seen every night it was even remotely clear and it was wonderful. I miss those long ago days!

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