Black Hole Sun
December 20, 2011 10:53 AM   Subscribe

A collection of timelapse night photographs, beautifully edited to demonstrate light pollution, complete with Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," ISS, the Milky Way and a lot of spendy Nikon cameras.
posted by Lynsey (14 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, I forgot to add, single-link vimeo post. :)
posted by Lynsey at 11:06 AM on December 20, 2011

I think it's sort of counterproductive to try to oppose night pollution by showing beautiful, glittery photographic images of cityscapes at night. Unless the point against light pollution is that the photographer was unable to avoid getting distracting shots of shadows of his own camera rig in some of the scenes.
posted by crunchland at 11:06 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

It looks nice, but I think it dilutes its point a great deal because of the frequency of a) night shots with clouds (yes, there's light pollution, but even a dark cloudy night isn't good for skygazing), and b) full moon time lapses.

Not that the person who filmed this could make it happen, but it would be interesting to see the difference between a night sky over a city or town under normal circumstances and, say, a power outage during a moonless night.
posted by chimaera at 11:26 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

"night pollution" seems like a horribly political piece of jargon. Actual pollution destroys natural resources, makes people sick, ruins the environment, takes forever to clean up, etc. Night pollution... makes it so you can't see a fuck-ton of stars, so that people can see the streets when they're driving at night. I don't really get it.
posted by rebent at 11:41 AM on December 20, 2011

Perhaps if you'd been somewhere with truly dark skies you'd get it...
posted by zeoslap at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Light pollution is not as important as air pollution to human health, but that doesn't mean it isn't pollution. Light pollution interferes with our ability to do astronomy and cosmology, and it interferes with bird migration. (of course there may be other effects.) Light pollution can also be mitigated without detriment to road safety; with better shades, more of the light from a streetlight can be directed toward the ground, for example. Large neon signs can be banned - for aesthetic as well as light-pollution reasons. When office buildings turn off their lights at night, they save money as well as reducing their light pollution.
posted by Fraxas at 12:41 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

rebent, wasteful night-time lighting does two things: ruin the sky for professional astronomers, amateur astronomers, and sky gazers, and waste energy by putting light into outer space, rather than illuminating the areas that we are trying to illuminate.

Poorly-designed lighting can also create glare that makes it more difficult to see at night, which is a safety issue, especially for drivers and bicyclists (though it may be an issue for pedestrians in areas where they need to be aware of their environment, as well.)

Replacing poorly-designed lighting with efficient, downward-directed lighting—and installing good lighting in new installations—is really a win all around, for property owners, taxpayers, as well as astronomers and sky-gazers.

(An the term is light pollution, though "night" pollution does have rather a nice ring to it. :) )
posted by BrashTech at 1:31 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've mentioned it before, but: Cities makes horrible choices regarding lighting. My hometown put lampposts with huge spherical lights in one of its parks, and those things glare so bad that, at night, the only things you can see are the lamps. If I were a mugger, I'd love that park, because people can't see anything or anyone located behind those lamps. The city where I live now uses similar lamps that put more light sideways than they do on the ground. It's very frustrating.

In truly dark skies, you'd be surprised how much light there really is. I've been out on a moonless, cloudless night near Lake Superior and been able to read by the light of the Milky Way.

Far too many children grow up without know the true beauty of the night sky.
posted by jiawen at 2:11 PM on December 20, 2011

Beautiful shots - esp of the Milky Way. And I forgot how much I liked that song. Thanks for the link.
posted by jetsetsc at 3:29 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

your arguments are very unconvincing. Oh no, cosmologists can't cosmologize. That's a very first-world problem of pollution. And I have been in places where it's truly dark - I did a summer way up in wisconsin at a summer camp which is where I taught myself the night sky (thanks in large part to H. A. Rey's The Stars: A New Way to See Them).

The stars are amazing. They are wonderful. They are magnificent. The lack of them causes only aesthetic problems - you might as well complain about having to look at a neighbors unsightly lawn, or how billboards distract from enjoying a nice drive.

Sure, if everyone in a community got together to ban light pollution, that'd be amazing - just like how my (soon to be) mother in law's town banned billboards taller than 10 feet. But other than that, I Really see this as a non-issue, especially compared to true environmental or cultural pollution.

(and, I can't believe I said "night pollution" lol)
posted by rebent at 4:07 PM on December 20, 2011

Oh no, cosmologists can't cosmologize. That's a very first-world problem of pollution.

Or, you know, the problem of any society that values science and science education. But hey, when was the last time an astronomical discovery put food in the mouth of a poor person, so why bother with it at all?
posted by chimaera at 5:54 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking as one of the poor who often lacks food in my mouth - science, science education, cosmology, and the night sky are food for the spirit, things that keep me trying to find food for the body. I've seen the night sky without any city light and air pollution. Not all of my neighbors can say the same. Not everyone will appreciate the sky like I do, but it would be nice if they had the option to decide for themselves.

First-worlds are only that way for a smaller percent than the internet represents.
posted by _paegan_ at 6:46 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Every tree, bug, bird, and mammal has evolved under conditions of alternating light and dark. And now they aren't.

You have seen the bugs at the porch light. And you know birds eat bugs. You could know this isn't a mere aesthetic change.

It doesn't cause you to cough so maybe it isn't pollution, but people do have light disorders. Disorders sometimes treated with intense light, but, since we respond to contrast, I wonder what dark would do.

Lighting does not enable driving at night. It enables driving faster. Prioritizing speed has financial, environmental, and social costs. Some people, and some societies, re-evaluate their priorities. Most demand that they continue what they have been doing because they have been doing it.
posted by llc at 12:34 AM on December 21, 2011

The City Dark
posted by crunchland at 4:38 AM on January 13, 2012

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