Our modern civilization has literally obliterated our night skies with light pollution and most people don't know what they are missing. Where does one go to escape the multitude of outdoor lights in order to have a clearer view of the night sky? Night lights are everywhere. Shopping mall parking lots, car dealers, grocery stores, streetlights, night-lighted billboards, security lighting around our homes, business signs, stadium lights, decorative lights, car headlights and traffic lights. If you drive around at night, unfortunately you will need your headlights and will need to heed traffic lights. However, it does not take long to see the lights.
What we're missing are the aurora borealis (northern lights), planets, the milky way, comets, constellations, meteor showers, and bright moonlit nights as they can, and should, appear to us. One can only imagine what our ancestors, before the proliferation of night lighting, saw when they gazed at the night sky full of stars.
There have been a few times in my life when I looked up at the night sky and stared in amazement at the stars above. It took my breath away the first time I looked skyward while in the remote mountains of New Mexico. The same feeling of awe and wonder overcame me in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Where did all of those stars come from, I wondered? True, viewing the stars at low elevations, as I had done most of my life, is not the same as the view from the mountains. However, even at lower elevations, in a remote area of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, I have experienced some amazing night skies.
As the sun enters a period of increased activity in 2012 and 2013 which will lead to more frequent and intense outbreaks of the northern lights, I cannot help but ask the question: How far do I have to go to escape the bright lights in order to more clearly see the aurora dance across the night sky? Where can we go to gaze at the multitude of stars in a truly dark night sky to look into the universe beyond our small world?
We just keep our heads down as we venture outdoors at night. Why bother to look skyward, because although we may think that we see the stars and night sky as they should be, we cannot because the skies are no longer dark and starry.
My one wish is that for one night of the year all of the unneeded night lights would be turned off. Then, we would only have to step outside of our homes and look up into the night sky to see what we've been missing.