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January 2, 2013 1:59 PM   Subscribe

What City Skies Would Look Like Without Light Pollution. (slAtlanticphotoblog)
posted by ricochet biscuit (59 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brilliant.
posted by gwint at 2:00 PM on January 2, 2013


Very atmospheric. Would be nice to see the stars as you'd see them from that location though, instead of the ones from another location.
posted by arcticseal at 2:01 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


dead.
posted by helion at 2:04 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Stellar.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or clouds, or moonlight
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:06 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Would be nice to see the stars as you'd see them from that location though, instead of the ones from another location.

It says he chose darker places at the same latitude. So its the same sky.
posted by vacapinta at 2:07 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's like every city is Detroit.
posted by XMLicious at 2:07 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


We'll definitely be seeing this in future science fiction post-apocalyptic movies!
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:09 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was like this in my city for a few days after a hurricane and was so lovely. We're making ourselves dumb.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:10 PM on January 2, 2013


I find city lights beautiful. I wonder how much more beautiful & bright they would look without all that "light pollution" from space.
posted by chavenet at 2:10 PM on January 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Stars are pretty and all, and don't get me wrong, it's awesome to go somewhere remote and see them, but they have their place.

Personally, I start missing the weird atomic orange glow of Chicago when I'm away from it for too long. I find it comforting.
posted by phunniemee at 2:11 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the atomic orange glow is the Gary steel mills.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:12 PM on January 2, 2013


Personally, I start missing the weird atomic orange glow of Chicago when I'm away from it for too long.

The glow of apartment buildings in NYC is changing due to the adoption of those new compact fluorescent lightbulbs. You'll see entire buildings just lit up in blue-green and then whole time I am thinking NO THAT IS THE WRONG COLOR YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE AMBER. I assume eventually they'll stick them in the streetlights and so on and the entire city will be a completely different color at night than it was for however long its been that we've had widespread use of electric lights.
posted by griphus at 2:13 PM on January 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think the atomic orange glow is the Gary steel mills.

Hmm, I've always assumed it was because of the near-ubiquitous use of sodium lamps on porches and street lights. There is certainly an orange haze that hangs around the heart of the city when you're on the outside looking in.

I'll have to pay more attention looking out towards Gary.
posted by phunniemee at 2:18 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Several more images, along with city names for those keeping track at home, are available at the author's site.
posted by kaytwo at 2:18 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


phunniemee: "Stars are pretty and all, and don't get me wrong, it's awesome to go somewhere remote and see them, but they have their place.

Personally, I start missing the weird atomic orange glow of Chicago when I'm away from it for too long. I find it comforting.
"

Hopefully you'll find a harsh white glare equally as comforting.
posted by boo_radley at 2:18 PM on January 2, 2013


In all fairness, this is what city skies would look like without light pollution and if you had pupils three inches across.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:22 PM on January 2, 2013 [24 favorites]


It says he chose darker places at the same latitude. So its the same sky.

My reading comprehension fail :(
posted by arcticseal at 2:23 PM on January 2, 2013


That orange glow. Eat shit, the Universe, we have sodium.
posted by theodolite at 2:23 PM on January 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Stars are creepy. Massive, luminous sphere of plasma held together by gravity just chilling out there. Performing stellar nucleosynthesis, radiating thermonuclear energy into space and god knows that else. Some stars even contain a small amount of degerate mattter.Probably best to blot them out.

I assume eventually they'll stick them in the streetlights and so on and the entire city will be a completely different color

There used to be sodium vapor streetlights in parts of the city, it was like a sickly orange. Boy am I glad they got rid of those.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:28 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


For others like me who get a warm, fuzzy feeling from grids and planned cities and so forth, please enjoy this video of a full day of CTA activity.
posted by phunniemee at 2:29 PM on January 2, 2013


Maybe they didn't get rid of them. just fixed the color. They made everything look like The Warriors.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:30 PM on January 2, 2013


This summer, I actually saw the Milky Way for the first time with my own eyes when I was in Guatemala on one of the rare nights that the sky wasn't covered in clouds. I'd say it was ine of the few sights I've ever seen that I could legitimately call awe-inspiring. I had to sit down for a while and just take it in. I need to spend more time out in the wilderness.
posted by empath at 2:31 PM on January 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


We had a major power outage in my part of Stockholm that lasted hours and from my window - I live fairly high up - the total lack of lights made the city looked cozy and serene. Almost like the city had finally come to peace with itself. The cities in these over-processed images, not so much.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:33 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my hometown, the night sky was always filled with this sort of glow.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:45 PM on January 2, 2013


This gives me weltschmerz.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:45 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a Home Depot employee, I feel I should advise New York that they can get their amber glow back to a degree with Soft White LED or CFL bulbs.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:47 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The cool thing about seeing the night sky is that you come to understand why we mapped the constellations the way we did. In a light-polluted sky, the Big Dipper, for instance, is this arrangement of dull little dots, and one wonders what makes them so special. But, when seen against the full night sky, it becomes readily apparent that these are bright fucking stars that stand out against the cosmic backdrop.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:50 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Personally, I start missing the weird atomic orange glow of Chicago when I'm away from it for too long. I find it comforting.

The worst is those new buses the CTA is running that have a like tanning-bed blue going on. You step into one of those things at night and your eyes scream.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:52 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe they didn't get rid of them. just fixed the color.

There really isn't any way to fix the color of a low-pressure sodium-vapor lamp: it emits light at two very narrowly spaced frequencies, 589.0 and 589.6 nanometers. It's not a matter of removing the excess orange-yellow so that the other colors can stand out: there simply isn't anything there but the orange-yellow.

If the color is different then the lighting technology is also different.

I love this stuff.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Atomic orange glow? Heck, I remember watching Bessemer "blows" from the steel mills in Pittsburgh that looked like full-sized rocket engines being burned upside-down. And the slag pours were like molten lava, glowing and setting stuff on fire as it spread down hillsides. The light and smoke were apocalyptic. This sort of thing was a nightly occurrence. Stars? We didn't know they existed, let alone the moon.

Compared to 40 years ago, the night skies over that town are VASTLY improved.

This sort of thing is why I chose to live in a tiny village where I can stargaze from my backyard.
posted by kinnakeet at 2:55 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Remember, light at night is the only thing that protects us from leopards and cave bears.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:57 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Chicago is replacing the old sodium lamps with new energy efficient lighting that lacks the orange glow.
posted by borkencode at 3:02 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something about these pictures makes me empathize with the characters of Nightfall.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:17 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh. That sodium lighting, it has a weird pinkish undertone to it, almost like electrified salmon, plus something kind of cyanish if you look long enough. It's just screamingly unnatural.

I would love light pollution laws. Your business' sign turns off no more than five minutes after your hours of operation conclude. No more than x lumens after close of business coming out of your windows. Streetlamps cast down, at an angle no closer than ten degrees to the horizon. And so on and so forth.
posted by adipocere at 3:18 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just spent the past few days visiting friends in Moab, Utah, at a house they bought about 10 miles outside the center of town, in a development so new they haven't put up streetlights yet; the only light on outside at night were the Christmas lights from the people in the development and the occasional passing truck on the highway, and the waning moon last night.

I didn't realize how much I missed seeing Betegeuse and the Milky Way until seeing them last night for the first time in about seven years.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:24 PM on January 2, 2013


Related: how the night sky will appear over the next 7 billion years.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:30 PM on January 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Reminds me of a star gazing party I once attended deep in the Lost Pines far from any ambient light...
posted by jim in austin at 3:40 PM on January 2, 2013


I would love light pollution laws. Your business' sign turns off no more than five minutes after your hours of operation conclude. No more than x lumens after close of business coming out of your windows. Streetlamps cast down, at an angle no closer than ten degrees to the horizon. And so on and so forth.

And teenagers would drive around in their cars, pumping bass out of their atomic stereos, and intentionally lighting up the night sky with rooftop/truck bed lamps. Sigh.
posted by davejay at 3:46 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, having grown up in Chicago and living in Los Angeles, it is very frustrating that I have yet to see a clear evening's sky without light pollution. I keep meaning to plan a vacation expressly for the purpose, but the fact that I have to do it that way is equally infuriating.
posted by davejay at 3:47 PM on January 2, 2013


That infernal orange glow over Chicago is on my list of reasons why I finally moved away. It gave me the sense that the city was infected. Not that you'd be able to see that many stars through the perpetual haze over the city.
posted by wotsac at 3:48 PM on January 2, 2013


davejay -- you can always use the Dark Sky Finder -- a pretty deeply dark sky can be had just a few driving hours from LA. You could do that over a short weekend, no vacation needed.
posted by chimaera at 3:49 PM on January 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is nothing I hate more than the hollow orange of a sodium vapor lamp. I think part of the reason they're so disquieting is because they actually oscillate at a rate just beyond our perceptual abilities, but you can see it if you are for instance riding your bike around and looking at the wagon-wheel effect it creates with the treads on your tires.
posted by invitapriore at 3:49 PM on January 2, 2013


These photos are pretty silly; that amazing milky way in there - especially the colour - is not visible with the naked eye. You only see it in photos, you only see it with long exposures. If you turned out all the lights in a city, it would definitely never, ever look like that.

This is not to disparage what you can see with the naked eye. I grew up in the country - I have savored the full creaminess of the milky way, and was gobsmacked when my partner, a city-dweller born and bred, confessed she had never seen a shooting star (something that happens about every hour, I would say, when you can see it). It's glorious, but it's not like those pictures. Not by a long shot.
posted by smoke at 4:12 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think I've said this before, but as a child in Denver, my grandpa and I would go out in the backyard and he'd show me all the constellations I could wrap my head around. The Milky Way was visible in all its glory.
Then one night we talked about eternity, how there were all these stars that made up the galaxy, and then there was the whole universe, which we couldn't see all of because it had no beginning and no end. My seven y/o mind was blown.
posted by dbmcd at 4:17 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


> There is nothing I hate more than the hollow orange of a sodium vapor lamp.

I couldn't agree more, except during heavy snowstorms.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:49 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


These photos are pretty silly; that amazing milky way in there - especially the colour - is not visible with the naked eye. You only see it in photos, you only see it with long exposures. If you turned out all the lights in a city, it would definitely never, ever look like that.

True, but what seemed really weird to me is how visible all the buildings were. Based on my experiences of being in deep wilderness at night, you really can't see anything except the stars. If the lights were turned off, all the buildings would look more or less pitch black.
posted by Straight_up at 5:42 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing those of you in love with sodium vapor lamps are likely less than 35 or so?

Seattle recently started replacing stretches of sodium vapor lamps with the new LED (I'm guessing) ones, with a much whiter and bluer glow. The first time I saw them I actually caught my breath; it was like being transported back to my childhood in the 70s. What feels like home to me are the mercury vapor lamps and their blue-white light. That's what I remember all the street lights being before suddenly all switching en masse to sodium in the early 80s or so. I'm sure it wasn't quite as sudden as I remember it, but the change was large enough that I associate that white light with the 70s, and have always disliked the ghastly tint of sodium vapor lights.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 6:02 PM on January 2, 2013


I detest sodium vapor lights. They give everything a harsh, "I am about to be murdered" feeling. I remember one night sitting in my car waiting for someone near a yellow caution light, blinking, with sodium vapor light and a wind coming up. There was a cyclone fence nearby, and the hum of the wind in the fence and the clicking of the caution light gave the situation a sense of dread and sadness.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:08 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


davejay - I would recommend a short weekend getaway in Idyllwild, which is on the southside of Mt. San Jacinto, and less than 2 hours from most places in LA/OC. I took this photo of a small section of the Milky Way and a passing plane during the Perseid meteorite shower this August from the street* near a friend's cabin.

I also went to the GrandView Campground in the White Mountains (5-6 hours from LA) in September, but it was a bit of getting to and my camping skills aren't great.

I rely on the SoCal Observing Locations and the US Darksky map to plot my 1-2 day defections from LA/OC.

*We sat on deck chairs in the street drinking wine and enjoying the Milky Way. Did I mention less than 2 hours from LA?
posted by msjen at 7:48 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Something about these pictures makes me empathize with the characters of Nightfall.
Yeah, this is one more data point in my mental history file "People drank a lot of alcohol in the past."
posted by Smedleyman at 8:13 PM on January 2, 2013


That's just a little creepy.
posted by Autumn at 9:45 PM on January 2, 2013


After being a city a dweller for so long, I very excitedly trucked a telescope up to my uncle's Wasatch cabin one summer vacation. Clouds rolled in every night.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:40 PM on January 2, 2013


They posted these photos on a glaring WHITE webpage, which sorta washes out the detail. Isn't irony ironic?
posted by RavinDave at 10:57 PM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced was about 20 miles or so offshore of the Delaware coast in a sailboat at night. The Delaware coast is pretty empty, so the shore was a black line on the horizon, and the only lights we had on were the running lights and the instrument panels, tuned down as far as they could go. We were becalmed and motoring, the diesel engine chugging along as we motored under a moonless, cloudless sky.

The bowl of the heavens was sprinkled with stars. We could see the full band of the Milky Way, from horizon to horizon, and then reflected again in the glassy sea below. Behind, our prop wash kicked up a phospor trail, winking and sparkling in our wake. I lay on the deck and looked up and felt like I was floating in space.

Stars above and stars below.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:19 PM on January 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


What City Skies Would Look Like Without Light Pollution and any kind of ambient moisture.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:52 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The sky above the port was the color of sodium, tuned to a dead frequency.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:31 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suddenly feel so unloved...

*sniff*
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 11:57 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


One advantage of living on the edge of town in a windy cold high desert is that we see the milky way a lot on our nightly walks. We were totally socked in during the recent Geminid meteor shower, though.
posted by gamera at 6:31 PM on January 3, 2013


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