Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Milky Way: How can I see it?

In the 1990's, a blackout in Los Angeles resulted in a massive influx of 911 emergency calls about "strange clouds," with residents wondering if they were somehow responsible for the widespread blackout. The unknown mist—the Milky Way—was new to many. Estimates of those living in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way galaxy range from 60-80%

If you're lucky, or if you were born before 1950, perhaps you've seen the Milky Way. Many rumors now say that it can't be seen from earth—which to a point, is true. The number of locations where you can look up and see the Milky Way is quickly dwindling, and without action, the rumors will be fact. 

Here are some things you can do to see the Milky Way from your own home:

1. It starts with you--Flip the switch. Unnecessary use of lighting is a major contributor to light pollution. Install motion-sensors for outdoor lighting: your friends and neighbors won't be offended if you don't leave the porch light on for them. Motion-sensors work just fine.

2. Join the movement for dark skies. Visit the International Dark Sky Association home page to see how you can get involved. 

3. Push for becoming a "Dark Sky City." Flagstaff, AZ started a trend for what the night sky can look like--the Milky Way and all. Write your senator, attend city council meetings--never underestimate what a few passionate individuals have the power to change.

4. Share the news! Awareness of the issue is the first step toward removing it. The resources to reduce light pollution are out there, from dark-sky friendly light fixtures to building design models which reduce light pollution. When people know, people do. Restore the night. Pass it on.