On moving into a city for the first time it is impossible not to notice that the night sky loses its inky black finish and adopts a milky yellow hue. Where stars were once easily visible they now require a minute’s concentration to see only one. Welcome to light pollution.
Light pollution is visible for up to 80 kilometres meaning that for many of us it is inescapable. Gone are the days for staring aimlessly into the sky at night or half-heartedly trying to work out the location of constellations we know only by name. 60 years prior to now most of us would have been able to look upwards and view the Milky Way but now only one tenth of us are able to view a truly dark sky.
For me this is one of the greatest sacrifices of city living. Being able to step outside into the dark and view the stars as they have been since before the birth of anyone we will ever meet is one of life’s great and natural pleasures. Light from Proxima Centauri (our second closest star) takes 4.3 years to reach earth but this time is dwarfed by many other stars who’s light will take more than tens of thousands of years to reach us. This means that simply gazing at a star is a way of seeing backwards in time. What a shame to not have this option and to be trapped under the blanket of light that currently spills its way into our skies from street lamps and open curtains.
The stars, if nothing else completely justify the average British person’s annual excursion to the country side or costal region. These short breaks allow us all some much needed and well deserved therapeutic sky gazing time. Although the season for sitting out comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt has recently passed us by, there can be an even greater pleasure to be found by braving the chill and losing yourself in the sky. The lack of this opportunity in cities should be used by all of us as fuel to go out, find somewhere secluded and enjoy the world’s oldest and most wonderful pass time.