Spoiling our views of the heavens
The effects of light pollution on how we see the night time skies is dramatic. From a light polluted town or city it’s possible to see perhaps 200 stars however from a dark sky site it’s possible to see as many as 3000 stars without any visual aid on a moonless night.
You can often readily see the affects of light pollution yourself, on some nights the skies glow orange caused by the inefficient sodium-vapour street lights illuminating the clouds above. On clear nights that light dilutes the skies meaning starlight is washed out and less stars being visible.
To give you an idea of what to expect all stargazing events and locations on this website have been categorised based on light pollution data obtained via this recent light pollution study to give an approximate indication of how dark the local sky conditions might be on a moonless night (when there is a moon in the sky conditions will be similar to “urban” no matter the location).
Dark sites represent the very darkest of locations and are therefore the very best places to go stargazing. From these sites the brighter and darker regions of the Milky Way are clearly visible and the glow of light pollution is limited to the distant horizon. Many deep sky objects such as galaxies and nebulae reveal good detail when observed through a telescope.
Rural locations will give excellent views of the brighter regions of the Milky way especially directly above and away from the horizon where there can be some effects of sky-glow from local light pollution sources. The brightest deep sky objects reveal good detail and look fantastic through a telescope.
Despite more localised light pollution from nearby sources semi-rural locations still offer fantastic views of the Milky Way if shielded from direct light. Deep sky objects can be readily observed although lose a bit of detail due to sky-glow.
In these areas the effects of light pollution really become noticeable with faint views of the Milky Way being limited to those who know where to look. Suburban locations however still offer opportunity to observe objects through telescopes, deep sky objects are readily visible although it can be difficult to discern much detail. Brighter objects such as the moon and planets which are not as much affected by light pollution look fantastic through a telescope.
Unfortunately urban areas are all too common! The Milky Way is not apparent at all and few stars can be seen when compared to a dark site. However with visual aids such as binoculars or a telescope some of the very brightest objects can be seen albeit with little if any detail, despite the high light-pollution levels planets and the moon still look awesome through a scope!