Last night I watched the film “A City Dark” on my local PBS station. An examination of our loss of the night sky. I’m drawn to this subject like a moth to light. How to present it? How to educate others about it? A couple minutes into the show I was hooked. Professor Robin’s comment, “American’s are not known for their knowledge”, brought a hearty laugh. Sadly its true, especially when it comes to the night sky. I found the scenes of using a planisphere, a type of star chart, in the heart of New York city weirdly depressing. How could those people possible appreciate the night sky when they can’t see but a few stars?
The show was put together with a combination of simple visual effects and time lapse photography. The author did a good job touching on many issues around light pollution. Trying to explore the question “What does it mean when we lose the night sky?”. One can present any number of valid reasons why this is bad, be it birds dying or baby turtles confused due to glaring light. The tough part is explaining the beauty and wonder of the night sky. Why one would even bother to see it, isn’t it just dark? No picture, or description can ever substitute for seeing the Milky Way stretching over ones head on a clear, moonless summer night.
When the show ended I so wanted to be in the Flint Hills, seeing the magnificence of the Milky Way far from the city lights. Only then can one understand what its like to really see the night sky. And what we’re slowly losing.