How often do you look up at the stars? Ever since I was a kid I’ve been fascinated with them, and it still boggles my mind to think that some stars are in fact planets or galaxies. And my own kids are the same – they’ll take every opportunity to gaze out the window or their skylight before they hit the pillow.
According to the Sydney Observatory, from the light-polluted centre of Sydney or Melbourne we might be able to spot around 125 stars, but from a dark country site maybe 2400. If you’ve ever experienced the wonder of the Milky Way from the Australian outback you’ll be thinking ‘2400 doesn’t even come close’.
It’s a simple fact that we can’t see many stars from our cities due to the light pollution. The NASA image above, one of thousands of similar views, looks beautiful at first sight, but then one has to ask ‘what is all that light doing in orbit?’. Aside from the wasted energy it’s washing out the stars.
And they’re our stars. Don’t we deserve to be able to see the stars at night from wherever we live? Do we necessarily have to accept the fact that living in a city means ‘no stars’? I think not. I’d like my kids [and theirs] to be able to stand wrapt in awe anywhere, including in the city.
This is an idea that’s been doing the rounds in my mind for years, so I’m unlikely to let it go. I want to bring back the stars.
So this weekend’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to spend a little time looking up, and also do a walk around your block and count how many lights you think don’t really need to be on. What would it take to turn them off, re-globe them, change the fitting, add hoods etc.?
If you’re lucky enough you’ll even spot the first star of the night, which is in fact usually one of the planets. Do you know which one?