Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On a Clear Night

Looking up at the stars on a clear night in an unpopulated, dark area is an unparalleled experience. It's shocking how seeing the stars in such stark relief makes the sky seems at the same time infinite and close enough to touch. And what's funny is, prior to the 20th century, this view of the cosmos was a normal nightly occurrence. Not until the birth of the electric light, and the resultant light pollution was ambient light so ever-present as to drown out the starlight. Now we have to drive far from civilization in order to catch of a view of the night sky the way our ancestors enjoyed it.

Most recently, Kate and I had a chance to scope the sky the was it was intended when we were out in Sedona, AZ. There, tucked up in scenic pull-offs, surrounded by red rock mountains under cloudless skies, the stars were resplendent. It was jaw-dropping. We laid out on the hood of the car, speechless. It's really something that everyone should see at least once in their lives.

Locally a good place to take in the view is Loch Raven Reservoir. I remember going out their at night back in college and seeing basically the same sky we saw out in Arizona. Really anywhere remote enough to escape the optical din of man made lights is the perfect location. It's well worth the drive.

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