Born under starry skies, rural seclusion wrapped childhood in the Milky Way. Constant, permanent, watchful – I left for city lights without saying goodbye. We still see each other every few years, picking up where we left off like old friends do. When time comes to part I wave goodbye, mindful of cosmic wonders that shaped my life. Pondering the fact 80% of people alive today have never seen the Milky Way.
Timelapse photography has become an obsession. When words fail, or concepts taunt abilities to temper information against the magnitude of my enthusiasm – the right timelapse rivets unsuspecting acquaintances to the floor. Cosmic wonder can’t be taught, it has to be found.
Two of my favorites, Skyfall and Sunchaser –
Check out timelapses by Gavin Heffernan at Sunchaser Pictures –
I’ll never forsake stars, they’re as much who I am as the air I breath. A rural child, raised decades before electronic distractions – stars were my universe. A portal entered with nothing more than imagination. Mythology danced before my eyes – never forced, elusive or fleeting. Constellations made sense of history – I gazed upon stars just as ancients once looked to the cosmos for answers. Taken for granted my stars would never fade. Not until decades of emptiness met circumstance in the middle of night- a abandoned highway somewhere in Arizona, did I realize how I longed for my stars. Unfettered by light pollution – I welcomed lost stars.
Reality of light pollution – equal parts inevitable and devastating, led me to ponder how many stars we can see. The answer is – not many. Get away from urban illumination, give yourself half an hour or so adjusting to darkness – maybe you’ll see a few thousand. Deposit yourself in the middle of an Arizona wasteland, undoubtedly that number rises. The trouble is – few of us bother with Arizona nights.
Ponder the day when all who remember stars are gone, when no child rests on summer’s night grass becoming one with the ancients. Imagine not finding the North Star or plucking Orion’s belt from the sky.
San Francisco night sky as viewed without light pollution. – Thierry Cohen
Click on the link to view images of night sky sans light pollution images of 10 major cities by Thierrry Cohen…
Watching this time lapse video by Mike Flores – 4 years ago in Baja California – illustrates ancient civilization’s keen understanding of the cosmos. Ponder a world unfettered by light pollution – imagine this on the “big screen” every night – galactic awareness would become second nature.
This graphic sums up modern reality – a majority of Earth’s citizens live within the spectrum of the first two night skies. All but a handful of the brightest objects hopelessly lost to light pollution. I’ve used the 1994 Los Angelos Northridge earthquake example on many occasions – when the city lost power, frantic citizens called 911 and the Griffith Observatory, terrified by the appearance of a “strange, giant, silvery cloud” – it never occurred to say hello to the Milky Way.
I’ve often asked myself if modern indifference towards the natural world stems from fading reminders of our place in the cosmos. Ancient people built mythology around celestial observations – cosmic shifts and alignments dictated planting, harvest. Elaborately woven lore binding earth and sky. The world made sense because nothing was taken for granted.
We’ve lost the one perspective able to put us in our place – the ability to look up and see we’re part of a very big universe. It may not be possible to find a corner dark enough to see the universe as ancient people did – watching Mike Flores video is a great place to start.