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One Fifth of World's Population Can't See Milky Way At Night

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the 80-20-rule dept.

Space 612

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Cosmos Magazine: "Light pollution has caused one-fifth of the world's population — mostly in Europe, Britain and the US — to lose their ability to see the Milky Way in the night sky. 'The arc of the Milky Way seen from a truly dark location is part of our planet's natural heritage,' said Connie Walker, and astronomer from the US National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Yet 'more than one fifth of the world population, two thirds of the US population and one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way.'"

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Well... I could. (5, Insightful)

ShadowBlasko (597519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266443)

And then they built that super Wal-Mart 1/4 mile from my house. Now I am lucky if I can see Sirus or anything of a less than amazing magnitude.

Poor kids, I wish they could see what they are missing.

Re:Well... I could. (4, Interesting)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266571)

In our last vacation, my four-year old spent at least 30 minutes staring up to the night sky with his mouth open...

Re:Well... I could. (5, Interesting)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266667)

In our last vacation, my four-year old spent at least 30 minutes staring up to the night sky with his mouth open...

I know what you mean. I took our daughters camping just a month ago, and the 2.5 year old asked what all the lights in the sky were. Despite that, being _my_ daughter, she was able to identify the Big Dipper and find Polaris, by herself (thank you Stellarium)! That, at two and a half!

Re:Well... I could. (2, Interesting)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266819)

There is nothing like driving at night in a truly dark area... my headlights seem to end about 20 feet in front of me and illuminate almost nothing. It is creepy at first but fantastic once you are familiar with it.

Re:Well... I could. (4, Interesting)

ShadowBlasko (597519) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267087)

I drove out west a few years ago. Took 140 out through southern Oregon. It was just BLACK. No moon, no lights, nothing but starlight.
Once I got up in the mountains a bit I pulled off and just looked at the stars. It was amazing. I must have spent 4 hours out there just looking up.

Why? (2, Funny)

rattaroaz (1491445) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267051)

In our last vacation, my four-year old spent at least 30 minutes staring up to the night sky with his mouth open...

Did he see Uranus?

Re:Well... I could. (2)

zmooc (33175) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267153)

You should try staring at the sky for 30 minutes with your mouth closed - you need pitbull-jaws to achieve such a feat:-)

Re:Well... I could. (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267005)

Living in India, it's this way with all the cities as well (which is why I refused to buy my 110mm telescope - I couldn't bear to use it in a city where I can't even see the andromeda constellation).

But in the villages, oooohhhh. Gorgeous. Tongue hanging out and you don't care if you get a crick in the neck.
That aside, I don't see how any government can possibly take light pollution seriously. Too much investment to satisfy too small a group - who cares if it's world heritage.

Re:Well... I could. (3, Insightful)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267091)

Too much investment to satisfy too small a group - who cares if it's world heritage.

Governments will listen to any small group that pays well.

Never Could (1)

maz2331 (1104901) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267061)

But that's because I live in Pittsburgh, where it's overcast with clouds constantly. We have weeks where we can't even see the Sun.

Re:Well... I could. (1)

camg188 (932324) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267151)

See the milky way or don't live in the dark. I think 99% of the population would choose one over the other.

Oh, the Milky Way (5, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266447)

Oh, the Milky Way at night,
Vastly over-rated sight.
Better still the suds of morn,
By which unsightly stubble's shorn.
Burma Shave

Re:Oh, the Milky Way (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266531)

Wow...if that's an actual Burma Shave Highway advert, I have to wonder:

How long have you had it on a sticky note at the bottom of your monitor waiting for a /. submission about the milky way?

Re:Oh, the Milky Way (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266941)

All Burma Shave jingles, like government economic figures, are generated on the fly by a cadre of idiots wielding polyhedral dice.

Re:Oh, the Milky Way (3, Funny)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267015)

Is there any other kind of die?

Re:Oh, the Milky Way (1)

Bandman (86149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267093)

A unihedral die would be a ball.

You could argue that the lottery is a limited random sampling of a pool of 64 unihedral dice.

Re:Oh, the Milky Way (1)

Bandman (86149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267119)

Much in the same way that a bihedral die is a coin.

They could see it all (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266467)

It was a warm summer evening when she left for the airport. He was sad to see her go but some bachelor time could probably do him some good. He was so into her that he had a hard time saying goodbye. She was such a nice girl. Well she could be a nice girl. She treated him ok but she certainly had ulterior motives behind her plan. Or so he thought. He suspected that things were not on the up and up but what was he to do. He loved her. He loved every bit of her. From her flowing hair and georgous eyes to her supple feminine features that turned him on so. She always said she loved him but was never quite sure in her actions. They remained together either out of co-dependency or what was actually true love behind a veil of dependency and irrelevancy.

He always thought he was saving her from herself and a life of mediocrity. He was wrong. He thought he was so much more than what he was. He wanted to be a great man but wasn't sure how to get there. Nothing an education in hard knocks can't fix. And so began his dwindling into the loathsome vortex of self-pity and destruction of potential. As though it was death he truly wanted. As though she was just the abuse that would allow him to feel as dead as he could feel. Was it fear that kept him alive? Or maybe that rationale of self preservation and anti-defeatism that cluttered his subconscious.

After she was away for a few hours, he thought about doing it, but was unsure for some reason. He decided to go have some beer with his roomates instead. A short while later she appeared in the doorway and was back. "What are you doing here?" he said. "The plane is delayed until tomorrow at 6 am." He pondered this over his beer and invited her to sit down with them and imbibe some frosted rye for the evening. After a few drinks she was tired and wanted to go to bed. He took her into their room and laid with her for a while. He wanted to be with her that night because he knew she would be gone for 2 weeks. She accepted the offer and he pleased her for some time before they both fell asleep. It was long and enduring but not the same as when they both would take the ride and he deliver hours of hardened pleasure to her. He never knew how but he would hold that high note for so many hours when the white knight appeared.

6 AM and the shuttle arrived. He was sad to see her go but knew she'd be back in a few weeks. He went for coffee down the street and a little breakfast. Knowing she was gone for sure this time sent the urge right up into his head. He couldn't wait anymore. It was killing him in a way this desire handles no man gently. Unable to walk from his need for the response, as the receptors were screaming to him for that special shape that releases all the wonders of the mind. He hadn't had this batch before but knew it was good. As he melted his lust and drew it into its temporary home his hands started to shake wildly. He had to walk away for a while to relax before the moment.

As the eye penetrated the main and the devil released his wrath, the collapse began. He felt the cold mourning of a lonesome vein lose its caress on life. Nothingness was what he felt. Slowly it creeped and he knew he missed in delivery of his love of pain. It became so strong he knew that would have meant dissolution. That would have been the one that delivered him to his final destination. His one way street to paradise. Someone smiled on him that day, a smile that turned to a laugh...... a dark and hateful cackle that tested his own perception of what is real. The guffaw of his own dark masters removal of all light that is the flame of his acumen.

That evening after he had come down a bit he realized how strong that was. It was incredible. What was that stuff? It wasn't anything like he had before. He wasnt't sure he should try it again because the effect was so strong he worried about making it through another rise. Whisky was the cure for now. He found a 1.75 litre bottle of vodka about half full by the bed and started drinking. No bother mixing as he needed it to work now. Too much vodka on an empty stomach can be a bad thing but still riding was keeping the full effect at bay. He walked down to the bar at the end of the street for more drinks. Some friends were there and were glad to see him. They chatted for a few hours into the night.

At home he was having a hard time getting to sleep. Drunk with the room spinning a little but not tired in the least. As he layed there on his bed, alone and missing his girl, his mind wandered. Could he handle a bit while drunk? Would his heart hold out? The years haven't been especially nice to him since his move to this town. The taste in the back of his throat starts to arrive and that all too familiar smell and desire to spreak into warpspasm as the energy becomes increasingly more, as it flows from his toes to his brain. He hates the jones but he knows the cure. Almost the desire to live the anticipation inevitably. The conjecture of the promise of a better tomorrow, is as much a divine insight, as it is a dream of the held passion on the flight to purgatory. As much as anoyone could want to hurt, is stronger than any desire for pleasure. The unknown path to a frigid death is more delectable than the known ideal that is a life forseen.

He wakes up around one the next affternoon and feels like crap. Starving he wants food, hungover he wants beer, but more than anything he wants to hit the hype to hear the angelic hovering of discovery in his mind. He can't get past that desire. He bought a large amount and has hardly touched it. Usually a sixteenth would have been done and over by now. he took out that large yellow rock and inspected it. It must have been the size of his thumb. he broke a small piece off into a spoon and put a little water on it. His stomach turned and his mind ached. He wanted to go there but had hesitation. Fear of the unknown can really hamper ones drive for pleasure.

15 seconds is all it takes to meet God. Anyone can do it anytime they want. A path to enlightenment can always be a few micrograms and ten U of water away. As the molecules arrange themselves in the order of the illuminated conception, and the seratonin pathways reverse their direction, the mind stretches out into the ether. The spiraling vision of acceptance is embracing your psyche as you begin a path to an enlightened awe that is the maker of us all. He sees you and welcomes you back to that periodic balancing act between nature and the depth of the multi-verse. It is a moment of discovery. A moment of understanding. A moment when you can briefly look into the darkest depths of your own denial and forlorn ambivalence.

As the room breathes and the space around him becomes substantive, it moves in and out of his perception in a spiraling display of glory and necrosis. Death is waiting for him in each and every atom asking him to join them on their quest for another soul. The display is of such intensity that he falls back on his bed and just watches the shadows move through the air all around him. The twitch and shimmer, create patterns of explanations that only he could understand while under their trance. Almost as if god were speaking to him through a display language of shapes and movements and twists and turns. If this is the case then it can be sure that god speaks in black and white. Color is absent from his view but is still seen in the multi-dimensional illusion that envelopes him like a cloak of dissolution within the hatred filled miasma.

Over time he awakens from his state and succumbs to the turmoil of reality. Still under the influence he cannot understand what has happened. This is the most mind numbing and expanding thing he has ever experienced in his life. He prepares another solution of light because he has to go back to this place again. He has never been there before but realizes he never wants to leave. As breaks off his piece and prepares the delivery. Soon he is welcomed back this world of love and warmth that he only left moments ago. All again he is living through the wonder that is encapsulated in his own mind and released by volume. Trying to understand the world he has entered he falls back again to relive his dream.

Milky Way, hell... (2, Insightful)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266475)

Living in northern Philadelphia, I'm lucky if I can make out enough bright stars to see Orion or Ursa Major, let alone something like the Milky Way...

Re:Milky Way, hell... (5, Funny)

justin12345 (846440) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266591)

I live in NYC, here you can't even see the sun.

Re:Milky Way, hell... (4, Funny)

AdamTrace (255409) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266711)

You're lucky! There were a hundred and twenty six of us living in a cardboard box in the middle of the road...

Re:Milky Way, hell... (2, Funny)

Jamamala (983884) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266963)

There were a hundred and twenty six of us living in a cardboard box in the middle of the road...


Re:Milky Way, hell... (5, Informative)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266927)

Real New Yorker's never look up. That's just for tourists.

Re:Milky Way, hell... (2, Interesting)

mcvos (645701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266617)

I live in Amsterdam, and I'm happy if I can see more than just Venus and Jupiter.

The first time I went on vacation to Africa (south-western Sahara) was a revelation! I didn't just see stars, I saw a gigantic haze across the sky. Cityboy had never seen anything like that.

Cool detail about that vaction (to Timbuctoo, by the way): our group had a retired British nerd who'd worked for Brittish intelligence and could explain how to find various interesting stars when starting from Orion's belt. It was amazing is so many different ways.

Re:Milky Way, hell... (2, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266735)

The first time I went on vacation to Africa (south-western Sahara) was a revelation!

But even in the Sahara you've got to get well away from human habitations to see anything. Even in places like Daklha or Laayoune, surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of nothingness, there are some many powerful street lights you can't make out anything in the sky. This whole trend of identifying blinding light with modernity in urban development has to stop.

Re:Milky Way, hell... (3, Funny)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266765)

Amsterdam is blessed with sufficient nocturnal distractions that not being able to see the night sky is no great hardship.

Re:Milky Way, hell... (2, Interesting)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266773)

I saw a video of the night sky where you could see the center of the Milky Way move across - if you showed me that eight years ago I wouldn't believe it was real. Due to living near Chicago most of my life, for the longest time I typically only saw a few dozen stars, and thought only a few hundred were visible with the naked eye.

Re:Milky Way, hell... (1)

Lord Juan (1280214) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266787)

Well, I live in Mexico City and I'm lucky if I can see the blue sky.

Re:Milky Way, hell... (5, Funny)

cream wobbly (1102689) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266863)

Living in Tucson, where the International Dark-Sky Association ("The Light Pollution Authority") is (was?) based, I'm lucky if I can see cyclists and pedestrians after sunset.

Yes I can see the bloody Milky Way, but the Milky Way isn't likely to cross an unlit street in front of you, is it?

Aren't we in the milkyway? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266483)

Don't you just have to look up to see it?

Re:Aren't we in the milkyway? (4, Funny)

cabjf (710106) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266569)

By that reasoning, I suppose you could look down and see part of the milky way too.

Re:Aren't we in the milkyway? (3, Informative)

CheddarHead (811916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266703)

Yes we are in the Milky Way galaxy, so technically any nearby stars you can see are part of the Milky Way. However, the Milky Way they're referring to is a dense band of distant stars you see when looking towards the galactic core. It's visible as a band of white across the sky. There's some photo's in the Wikipedia article. []

The fact that you seem to not understand what they're referring to clearly illustrates their point. (I'm assuming that your question was serious.) Apparently you've never seen (or at least noticed) this band of stars. Do yourself a favor and go out to the mountains or desert. The beauty of the night sky in areas away from the cities is well worth the trip.

Re:Aren't we in the milkyway? (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266707)

Just because you can see some of the trees doesn't mean you're seeing the forest. The Milky Way is (traditionally) a diffuse band across the night sky which is lighter than the inky black of space. We call our galaxy the Milky Way because that band is made up of countless distant stars from that galaxy.

Re:Aren't we in the milkyway? (4, Informative)

thegermanpolice (1194811) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266783)

Galaxy is greek for Milky. But then again everything is all greek to me.

Much like planet is greek for wonderer.

Go on mod me funny and informative.

Re:Aren't we in the milkyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28267097)

Wanderer actually.

Re:Aren't we in the milkyway? (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266709)

Yes we are. But on a dark night you can look up and see a faint band of stellar bodies in the sky. You are looking into the core of the spiral galaxy we call the Milky Way. On a really dark night you can even see the peanuts and caramel.

Re:Aren't we in the milkyway? (1)

drawfour (791912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266869)

Milky Way doesn't have peanuts -- that's Snickers. It has nougat, caramel, and milk chocolate.

Re:Aren't we in the milkyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266751)

No we're not, we're in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is named after it. The astronomical phenomenon knows as the Milky Way is actually part of our galaxy's spiral arms.

If you were wondering, our solar system is located in the relatively empty space between spiral arms.

You don't even know you're missing it. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266497)

I live in Los Angeles. One day I went up to Yosemite to hike Half-Dome. It's a long hike, so we started at 3 in the morning. When we broke out of the trees, I looked up and shit my pants.

Re:You don't even know you're missing it. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266533)

Did your life partner then take advantage and penetrate you under the star lit morning?

Re:You don't even know you're missing it. (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266733)

Obviously you hadn't eaten enough trail mix yet.

Re:You don't even know you're missing it. (1)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267011)

On the contrary, sounds like he ate too much.

Re:You don't even know you're missing it. (4, Funny)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266815)

I looked up and shit my pants.

So you managed to spot Laxitiva Major? I have some great practical joke stories about that star.

Re:You don't even know you're missing it. (3, Interesting)

Fishead (658061) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266947)

What was really amazing was once I went camping with some friends up in the mountains and at the time someone had the right contact and we were able to borrow a piece of Gen 3 night vision. Lying on the ground in the mountains with a high quality image intensifier was pretty crazy. You could see an almost continuous stream of meteors as well as more stars then I ever imagined.

On a trip to Vegas. (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266519)

I looked up and said to a friend. This town is so corrupt even the stars have left it.

Re:On a trip to Vegas. (1)

daeley (126313) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266931)

And then your friend said, "We can't stop here. This is bat country!"

Another interesting stat (5, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266545)

2/5ths of Americans can't see their own toes.

Huh? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266547)

When did Britain leave Europe??

Re:Huh? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266727)

At the end of the last ice age, when the channel flooded. Or at the end of last week, when the election results came out.

Thanks, I'm here all week. That'll probably be longer than Gordon Brown.

Used be able to see it. (5, Interesting)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266549)

When I originally moved into my house years ago, I was surrounded by farmland, but in the past few years my area got built up with Shopping Centers, Neighborhoods and whatnot. The light pollution has become so bad that I don't even bother bringing out my telescope anymore on summer nights. The convenience of having many stores close is nice, but everything it comes with price and I think this one is a little bit too much. I originally moved to the area to get out of Philadelphia, now it's not much different in terms of the sky.

Re:Used be able to see it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266987)

The obvious solution is to have completely darkened stores. You have to bring your own flashlight if you want to shop, unless the first thing you buy is a flashlight.

I can see about 20 (5, Interesting)

riffzifnab (449869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266557)

I just recently got a new DSLR camera so now I'm playing around with all it's fancy features. I figured I would see if I could get a picture of the Milky Way from my deck in Cambridge MA. After processing the heck out of it I got about 20-30 stars... it was really kinda sad.

You have to get away ... (3, Interesting)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266563)

from the light pollution to really realize what you're missing. The two times I have been been in awe of the night sky were,
1. In the middle of the Atlantic on a boat
2. In the desert in Mauritania

Also on your astronomical to do list, head to the southern hemisphere. There's a whole different set of stars there. (Besides Nicole Kidman)

Re:You have to get away ... (2, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266981)

On an Alaskan mountaintop... in late summer, when you actually have full dark for an hour or two (depending on latitude) but it's still fairly warm.

Bonus points for the aurora borealis on the horizon if you happen to get lucky at that time of year.

You've got to be lucky anyway (or in the interior) to avoid overcast skies anyway...

Quit calling it "light pollution" (1, Insightful)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267099)

That's one of the silliest terms I've ever heard. Comparing light at night to smog or dirty water is disingenuous. There are no health hazards to nighttime light. Its simply a marketing term for people that are angry that they have to travel a little bit to get a good view of the stars. Well, too bad. That's the price you pay for civilization. Cities and suburbs are lighted at night for good reasons. Properly used, night lighting deters crime [] , improves safety [] , and allows us to use more of the day for productive purposes. Lighting allowed us to do work at night that we formerly couldn't do.

I don't know about you, but I'll take all of those advantages over living in the dark just so I can get an unobstructed view of the stars. And I say that as someone that used to enjoy amateur astronomy quite a bit (getting a new telescope will have to wait until the toddler gets older).

When I was using a telescope, I simply accepted that I was going to have to drive 20 minutes if I wanted a fantastic view of the stars... I even had my favorite spots picked out. Now if you choose to live in a place like New York City, then use your head... you're going to have to accept that you are choosing to live in a heavily lighted environment. It's a tradeoff. Want beautiful, naked-eye views of the night sky? Move to Montana or some remote desert town. Want better economic opportunities and the benefits of a city? Plan your sky-viewing trips out of the city, then.

Light pollution or not... (4, Funny)

Kalendraf (830012) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266567)

I can almost always spot the Milky Way.

It's usually right next to the Snickers.

Stars at night (3, Interesting)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266579)

No, I won't continue with the Texas theme song.

But I will say that having lived on Nantucket Island, New York City, and now California's Central Valley, I definitely appreciate going back to the sandbar and seeing what a night sky really looks like. I did spend a night in the Badlands of South Dakota -- and I think that is the most stars I've ever was like the entire sky wasn't black with pinpoints of light, but more of a fuzzy white with brighter spots. Truly amazing until the buffalo attack... (kidding)

Duh... (1)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266607)

No, no.... Look *UP*, stupid!

It's sad, really. (1)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266645)

I live less than 10 minutes from NYC, and all the light pollution that it emits carries over to my house and you can barely see any stars at night.

A few years ago, I became interested in astronomy and bought a telescope. After spending an entire day assembling the thing when I looked through it at night I couldn't see a damn thing; only the moon\. It was one of the most depressing days of my childhood.

The sad part is as long as New York is New York, I won't be able to see the stars. But hey, maybe the economy will get so bad that Wall Street closes up and everyone moves out :)

Re:It's sad, really. (2, Insightful)

Silicon Jedi (878120) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266961)

If you live 10 minutes from NYC, you live in a densely populated enough area that your neighborhood would block out the Milky Way anyway.

Re:It's sad, really. (2, Insightful)

DJ Jones (997846) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267033)

You ever walk through East Harlem at night, kid?

Sometimes street lamps are a little more important than allowing New Jersey to have un-obstructed view of the stars.

Not pollution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266649)

Photons are not pollution in my opinion.

I love stargazing and space in general, but some of these folks are bigger hysterics than the peak oil folks.

I see this as the phoniest of the phony baloney eco-greeny flavor of the month stuff we are getting from every corner.

Where you can show where humans are adversy effected health-wise and balance it against the very sound reasons we light shit up, I'm okay with it.

But calling it pollution is about as unsciency as oil "addictions" and other nonsense we are flooded with more and more.

It's at least WASTE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266785)

The photons that ARE visible are from street lights and security lamps.

Nobody walks in mid-air any more.

This makes each photon going up there a waste. And each one coming back unwanted and ususable.

And if that's not a good definition of pollution, I don't know what is.

Re:Not pollution (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266887)

You're right, it's not a literal form of pollution like say, an oil spill, but it is 'polluting' the sky by lowering nighttime visibility.

Re:Not pollution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266905)

I see far more whining "from every corner" from people like you ("environmentalism, wah wah wahhh, eco-greeny, boo hoo hoo sob") than I see from the environmentalists.

Aaah... the lucky, lucky, people... (1, Troll)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266651)

...Living far away from civilized centers, like in the center of African forests and deserts or on top of mountains and other places which have not yet been reached by the black asphalt snakes of progress.
How happy they are to have the Milky Way as their roof and the sound of crickets as their entertainment.
I am certain that they would never trade such freedom and comfort for those ghastly artificially illuminated roads, constant hum of the civilization and such trivialities as proximity to health-care and formal education.

Re:Aaah... the lucky, lucky, people... (3, Interesting)

sribe (304414) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266871)

Yeah well, I live on a mountain, can see the Milky Way most nights, get daily mail & UPS & FedEx service, have my choice of 2 decent broadband services, can get over-the-air DTV, and am only about 1/2 mile from a paved (but mostly unlighted thank goodness) road. Granted, shopping is not so close, 15 minute drive to a quick-mart, 30 minutes to anything substantial--such as Costco, Safeway, Home Depot, major mall, excellent restaurants, the state university, or several medical centers. Oh woe is me, deprived of freedom and comfort ;-)

Of course brutal high winter winds, deep snow, and spending lots of quality time with a chainsaw are not for everyone. But I love it!

Re:Aaah... the lucky, lucky, people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266903)

I totally agree

Also in this month's Cosmos: (2, Funny)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266657)

100 Hidden Constellations He Craves!!!

Look great to the naked eye!

Steven Hawking - fun and fearless!

Look on the bright side (1)

Qubit (100461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266669)

At least we can still see the Triffids [] ...for now.

Speaking of the bright side, keep your eyes peeled for bright comets.

No, wait, scratch that.

I mean, scratch the directive, not your eyes. Just keep your eyes down.

Uh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266687)

Wait, you can see the milky way at night?

Actually, now _everyone_ can see the Milky Way (0)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266693)

All the new convenience stores they've built that shed all the light, also stock Milky Way. I prefer Snickers, though.

Well at least... (1)

Daemonax (1204296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266713)

Well at least with the constelations becoming hard to see, we might see a decline in astrology.

Though it's an incredible lose to not be able to go outside and just gaze up at the cosmos, with it's billions and billions of stars and galaxies, and to just feel awed by the beauty of nature.

Light pollution is fixable (4, Insightful)

esoterus (66707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266729)

If we could start getting in the habit of focusing our lights down through the use of hoods and lamp covers we could probably make fast, cheap improvements on this problem. Light is wasted going up, with the exception of cool satellite shots showing the Earth at night. I for one would love to be able to see more than magnitude 1 and brighter stars from my rooftop in Brooklyn.

21 when first seen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266745)

I did not see the Milky Way until I was in my early twenties. I was on a camping trip and looked up at the night sky and commented how many stars you could see except for that one cloud in the way, and someone explained it wasn't a cloud. I was seeing the Milky Way for the first time.

Re:21 when first seen (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267089)

You'll never look up at the night sky in the same way again.
Welcome to the club

Sad... (1)

Zantac69 (1331461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266755)

Just last week, I explained to my wife that the "funny looking star area" that they see in Titanic when they are taking the ice bath really was the Milky Way galaxy...and that it really did look like that when you get in some real "country dark" - something she has not ever seen...and something that I have not seen in years. City life is good...but we miss out on some of the most beautiful things out there!

So Bright You Can Read By It (1)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266761)

Camping in the high desert of northwestern Nevada years ago, the call of nature awoke me about 2am. I crawled out of the tent to a moonless night that revealed a sky literally full of stars - I couldn't find a dark spot anywhere. The Milky Way looked like a river of light stretching from horizon to horizon.

I may never travel to space, but I think I know what it looks like now.

This is goofy... (5, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266769)

I take issue with a number of things here...

A) Is this 1/5th immobile? Can they not hop a commuter train to the suburbs or something? I'd really like to know. I know that when I go out to see Dad in Wyoming the difference is absolutely noticeable, but I've always assumed that the same could be gained by finding some road-side location out in 'the sticks'.

B) When is light 'pollution', and are we okay with (what I assume is) a situational definition of that word? Is light 'pollution' when it comes out of your headlights? Or only when Wal-Mart uses it to light their parking lot? Is there some measurable standard of 'enough' light, and the excess is 'pollution'? Or is it only 'pollution' when you want it to be dark? I'd honestly like to know...

C) What does 'the arc of the Milky Way seen from a truly dark location is part of our planet's natural heritage' mean, exactly? Are we really weighing the advantages of light at night against 'natural heritage'? Because, from where I sit, 'living in a cave, eating only what you can kill with a pointy stick' is also our 'natural heritage'. The rest is technology at work, for better or worse.

It just strikes me as weird, and I'd love to hear voices from the other side of it.

Re:This is goofy... (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267125)


This is sad (1)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266777)

I live in the city and don't drive. It's been forever since I've seen the Milky Way and I'm rather sad about that. :-( I don't really know how it can be solved, and I really do believe that this fact has a strongly negative effect on people's interest in space.

Re:This is sad (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267075)

I don't really know how it can be solved

Support a continued ban on nuclear plants. Once we run low on fossil fuels electricity will be too expensive and everyone will turn of the lights. If it happens soon enough wind/solar won't be enough to make up the difference.

Four fifths of slashdot's population (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266791)

can't see milky way at night because Mom's basement ceiling is in the way

Geography101 (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266805)

... You do realise Britain is IN Europe?

and astronomer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266845)

is a misnomer.

It's Not Global Warming! (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266847)

Just turn off some damn lights and it'll come back! More towns and cities need to adopt regulations about this. Perhaps petition drives are in order...

Pity... (1)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266909)

I saw it while in Australia, I am living in Europe.
It indeed is not good, not at all to see over here...
Which is a pity and perhaps worse.

God help us! (0, Troll)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266975)

This is horrible news! People can't see the stars at night! We need to demand that government stop these evil power companies from providing electricity after the sun goes down. And we need to arrest anyone driving around at night with headlights on or anyone using flashlights or candles. And all these tall buildings that block our view of the night sky need to be torn down immediately! It is our constitutional right to be able to see the stars at night. When I sit outside of my cave in the freezing cold I can barely see a single star at all. All these modern conveniences. Who needs 'em!?! It's time we gave up all these new fangled gadgets and went back to the old ways.

cost of it all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28266991)

Imagine how much energy could be saved, and how much of this could be remediated with some simple changes. I generally like my government small and out of my business but in this case, it would be fairly easy.

- stores must turn off all lights, including parking lot lights within 30 minutes of the time the last employee leaves. (I can't count the number of times I've driven past a mall at midnight with every store light on, all the outside signage lit and every light on the parking lot on.
- no neon, internal or spotlights on outdoor signage, if you really want it to be seen at night, make it reflective.
- limit the lumens from all vehicle headlamps, limit lights only to headlight, foglight, brakelights and turn signals.
- no external floodlights on houses unless they are on a motion sensor that is set to go off with activity no further than 25 ft away and must go out with a delay of no more than 30 seconds after motion stops.
- occupants of office building must turn off all lights when the business closes for the day.

If light pollution is a problem where you live... (2, Interesting)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#28266999)

you could always go to North [] Korea [] .

Granted, there are a few other problems you'd have to deal with, just not light pollution.

buy it (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267007)

Well I dont know about you, but just about every liquor store I know sells milky ways... I just dont see what everyone is complaining about.

Two Places I've been blown away by the night sky.. (2, Interesting)

Papatoast (245525) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267029)

I've loved the night sky since I was a kid and growing up in rural NC, I could, and still can, see the Milky Way, observe nebula, etc..

However, I spent a night in the Moroccan desert and was just slobberknockered at the sky. Likewise, I camped in the Peruvian Andes and the clarity and seeing the southern hemisphere stars for the first time was just mind warping.

at last! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28267035)

at last! Britain is no longer in europe!

Europe, Britain and the US (4, Funny)

kraut (2788) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267043)

When did Britain get moved to a different continent? Or did we get upgraded?

Re:Europe, Britain and the US (4, Funny)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267115)

When did Britain get moved to a different continent? Or did we get upgraded?

Evidently the submitter voted UKIP.

Hrmm (1)

PeterP (149736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267069)

The glow of their web server melting down probably isn't helping...

Saw it for the first time a few years ago. (1)

SteveHeadroom (13143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267121)

I'm 31. I grew up in the suburbs and moved to the city after college. I'm used to seeing a few random stars scattered in the empty sky and that's all I ever thought of the night sky as. I think I had only ever seen one or two shooting stars. Finally in 2003 I went on a vacation to Las Vegas and also spent two days at the Grand Canyon. WOW! There was almost no light around the hotel I stayed at near the Canyon and I could see the sky packed full of stars and quite a few shooting stars. It was really incredible. It's sad that so many of us have missed out on this for much of our lives. Most people have no idea what they're missing.

I can't help but think (1)

bflong (107195) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267147)

... that maybe if everyone could see how small we really are, more would have a sense of humility then do now.

We don't miss it at all in Britain (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28267149)

Because it's cloudy, dull and rainy the whole time - like today, and yesterday, and the day before that, and .... for instance.

Even when this country didn't have light pollution, the milky way was a rare sight. Normally when you look up there's just clouds. On the few clear nights we do have the moon would blot out the MW, anyway. On occasion you get to see a few bright dots through the light pollution - but those are generally just an aircraft flying by.

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