Friday, July 25, 2008

The night sky in the World

This is an amazing picture.

About two-thirds of the world's population, including almost everyone in the continental U.S. and Europe, no longer see a starry sky where they live. For much of the world, it never even gets dark enough for human eyes to adjust to night vision, reported an international team that mapped the geography of night lighting.

I well know it: darkness is never dark in Flushing, and in Manhattan it is almost as if it isn't night when the sun goes down.

A natural nightscape has become as rare as an unspoiled wilderness. In Borrego Springs, Calif., a small town surrounded by 600,000 acres of desert in California's largest state park, the midnight sky is a tourist attraction. On a clear night, the curtain of stars almost seems to brush the ground.

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Imagine: night a tourist attraction.

In the brightly lit cities that half of humanity now calls home, a half dozen stars may be visible on a clear night. In the darkest rural areas, about 2,000 stars typically may be visible – half the number seen in centuries past.

Wow. In Chichester the night sky seems carpeted with stars.

Even in Death Valley, one of America's most unspoiled parks, the night sky glows with urban light. Only the moon outshines the neon halo of Las Vegas, 120 miles away, Chad Moore, U.S. National Park Service night-sky manager, reported last year in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. After taking night-sky readings at 45 national parks, he found that the glare of city lights 200 miles away could visibly alter a park's night lightscape.

Wow. Even Death Valley.

By reforming lighting practices, they hope to become the second Dark Sky Community designated by the International Dark Sky Association later this year (after Flagstaff, Ariz.).

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