Eyes to the Sky: Let there be night -- sans 'sky glow'


"Our fantastic civilization has fallen out of touch with many aspects of nature, and with none more completely than with night." -- Henry Beston, The Outermost House, 1933.

Is it possible in this age of 24/7 to consider that life in the dark season offers the opportunity to allow our intellect, body and spirit to adapt to, learn from and, in the process, find renewal during winter's long nights?

Determination is required to avoid lighting up the darkness to excess. A personal perspective on artificial light at night -- awareness of when we are negatively affected by over-lit environments -- prompts us to wonder how plants, animals, astronomers and the naturalist in each of us fare when deprived of darkness.

Henry Beston's observation is from 80 years ago, when electricity, and with it electric light, was not ubiquitous. Artificial illumination promotes our separation from the night, while business interests promise everything from increased safety (proved otherwise) to must-have decorative lighting. As preparations are made for the holiday season, observe how closely commerce tries to replicate nature and lure us away from experiencing the real world.

The problem is that artificial illumination, especially poorly designed and placed lighting, creates light trespass to unintended areas, perhaps the worst of which is "sky glow," the "pea soup" sky that replaces starry nights. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, is dedicated to protecting the nighttime environment. Go to: www.darksky.org.

The waxing (growing larger) gibbous (larger than half) moon lights the night tonight and tomorrow, leading up to the Full Frost Moon, which rises at 4:46 p.m. Sunday. The Leonid meteor shower peaks Sunday night into Monday morning, so we will have natural light creating sky glow! Look for shooting stars especially before dawn in the coming days, when the moon is setting.

Relish the long nights and warm up to joining the movement to restore and preserve dark skies.

To contact Judy Isacoff, M.A. go to: www.naturesturn.org


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