The term skyglow evokes poetic images – sunset petticoats of periwinkle clouds caught in flirtatious embrace with plump pomegranate horizons, gossamer tendrils of moonlight skipping playful stones across still water, calming arias of ethereal pre-dawn planetary conjunctions – all may glow, but none define skyglow.
Skyglow is light pollution. Artificial, unshielded, unnatural light directed upward into the atmosphere. Driving at night we’ve all seen a distant glowing dome over towns and cities, that is skyglow – the reason I strain to hear childhood stars sing.
In 1928 naturalist and writer Henry Beston published The Outermost House. In it he wrote –
Our fantastic civilization has fallen out of touch with many aspects of nature, and with none more completely than with night. Primitive folk, gathered at a cave mouth round a fire, do not fear night; they fear, rather, the energies and creatures to whom night gives power; we of the age of the machines, having delivered ourselves of nocturnal enemies, now have a dislike of night itself. With lights and ever more lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of night back to the forests and the sea; the little villages, the crossroads. Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars? Having made themselves at home in a civilization obsessed with power, which explains its whole world in terms of energy, do they fear at night for their dull acquiescence and the pattern of their beliefs? Be the answer what it will, today’s civilization is full of people who have not the slightest notion of the character or the poetry of night, who have never even seen night. Yet to live thus, to know only artificial night, is as absurd as to know only artificial day.
― Henry Beston, The Outermost House, 1928
Entirely light polluted Shenandoah National Park, Virginia – “In Shenandoah National Park, only the occasional passing clouds block enough light from the surrounding cities to offer visitors a decent view of the heavens. With an estimated light pollution growth at 6 percent a year, National Parks, along with all of the developed world, may lose their dark skies by the end of the 21st Century.” – https://skyglowproject.com/#dark-sky-movement
In 1958 Flagstaff, Arizona became the first city to pass light pollution laws. City ordinances prohibited the use of commercial search lights within city limits, violation of said ordinance was punishable by up to 90 days in jail. In 2001 the International Dark Sky Association named Flagstaff the first international dark sky community in recognition of pioneering efforts to maintain dark skies.A well deserved nod born in 1958, schooled through 1973 when Flagstaff’s county of Coconino passed sweeping lighting code regulations, and educated by 1981 when all illuminated billboards were banned.
Flagstaff is world’s only city of 100,000+ residents to feature readily-available dark skies.
With the estimated light pollution growth of 6% a year, all of developed world may lose its dark skies by the end of the 21st century.
“Skyglow” is also a project by timelapse photographers Harun Mehmedinovic and Gavin Hefferman to raise awareness of light pollution. Spend a video moment with Gavin and Harum, it will forever change how you gaze at night skies. –
“The age of dark skies, with us from the very beginning of humanity, has come to an abrupt end.” – https://skyglowproject.com/#music