In Search of Darkness

In Search of Darkness

IC 342Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight…First star? Hello? You’re supposed to come out now. Stars? Someone? Shine? Please?

While I was a graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin I watched the Ring Nebula (M57) disappear. When I first arrived in 1996, this former stellar atmosphere was clearly visible in binoculars from the roof of the building I worked in (RLM). In 2000 I could no longer see it, but some of my more owl-eyed students could see it faintly contrasting against the background glow of too many city lights. When I graduated in 2002, it was just gone. No pair of 10×50 binoculars was going to find it. According to the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce the city grew from 846,227 people in 1990 to 1,452,529 people in 2005. With that growth came lights, and with those lights came star consuming light pollution. As the world population grows and becomes progressively more industrialized, our entire planet is losing its ability to see faint stars and galaxies in the night skies.

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