International Dark Sky Week

5th April marks the start of International Dark Sky Week and, as a night sky photographer and long-time stargazer, I’m proud and privileged to be a photographic partner of the Dark Sky Association to help preserve spectacular views like this.

The Milky Way above Durdle Door

The Milky Way rises majestically above Durdle Door on England’s Jurassic Coast.

The goals of IDSW are to appreciate the beauty of the night sky and to raise awareness of how poor-quality lighting creates light pollution. The more light spills into the night sky, the more our views of the stars are impeded.

The following set of three images, though somewhat less beautiful than the shot above, serve to demonstrate the problem of light at night. This particular neighbourhood has a policy of switching off streetlights after midnight. As I strolled around (shivering somewhat, it was the coldest night in December!), I enjoyed great views of the stars until I unwittingly triggered a security lamp. I guess it was a relatively weak 100watt bulb but you can see for yourself the impact it made on my image. From a sky full of stars in my first photo, I’ve had to close down the settings so much to curtail the lightspill that only a few of the very brightest stars remain visible in the second. The third image is just a bit of fun, showing startrails centred on an unlit streetlamp.

As a photographer, I’m interested in dark skies to enjoy awe-inspiring views of the stars at night but there are several other compelling arguments in favour of reducing light & light pollution at night including effects on human health, needless energy consumption, and the day-by-day lifecycle of wildlife.

There’s a full list of resources available on the Dark Sky website, linked below. If the clouds clear and you get a chance to observe the night sky during IDSW please think about what you can do to monitor and help reduce light pollution, from counting visible stars to adjusting your own domestic lighting or having a friendly word with your neighbours or local authority about just how much lighting you need at night. It’s the lack of dark you should really be worried about!

Here’s a link to the IDSW campaign page .

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