When did you last see the Milky Way?

14

By Bob Difley

Most security lamps as well as general lighting in campgrounds throw too much light out in all directions, including skyward, effectively canceling out the night sky and the carpet of glittering Milky Way stars and the imaginative constellations scattered about the universe.

That is one reason why I have boondocked as much as I have. I can use a flashlight if I have to. I don’t need – or want – nighttime security lights. And even in some boondocking locations, like Long Term Visitor Areas that are more crowded than the open desert, I’m dismayed when I look out my motorhome’s window or step outside at night to see the stars and all I can see is what is illuminated by my neighbors’ porch lights.

It’s not just me acting curmudgeonly that feels disrupted. Nocturnal animals are frequently disoriented by city lights, such as when migratory birds lose their way without the ability to see the stars, and leatherback sea turtles emerge from the Gulf to lay their eggs on sandy beaches and are then disoriented by lights from beachside developments.

Not only does light pollution affect nocturnal critters but it is also “threatening astronomical facilities, ecologically sensitive habitats, our energy consumption, and our human heritage,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA).

“Of all the pollutions we face, light pollution is perhaps the most easily remedied,” writes Verlyn Klinkenborg in Our Vanishing Night in the November 2008 issue of National Geographic Magazine. “Recent calculations suggest that two-thirds of humanity lives under skies polluted with light, and one-fifth can no longer see the Milky Way.”

If you are lucky enough to be able to snowbird for the winter in the southwestern deserts, you will be able to find many boondocking locations – and some BLM campgrounds – with few lights and bright star-sprinkled, non-polluted, clear skies. And after your eyes adjust to the darkness you will be amazed at how well you can see – not only a sky full of stars, but you just might spot a nocturnal kangaroo rat, kit fox, or a wily coyote on the hunt.

Oh, and turn off your porch light.

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.

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Michael MCcracken
1 month ago

I stay mainly in RV Parks where I usually stay a month or more. I love the wildernesses but national and state parks restrict your stay to 14 days. I don’t like having to move around. Getting on the subject, Star gazing is very limited. Most RV Parks are lit with security lights.

Cindy
1 month ago

Birds sometimes get lost and fly until they dies due to light pollution. If your campground is already well lit, you don’t need those lights, more than likely. Turn them off when you go in so they aren’t on longer than necessary. The birds will thank you.

Don N
1 month ago

Saw the Milky Way in the candy isle yesterday.

D C
1 month ago

Last month when we were out camping. Forget seeing it in town. We’re lucky if we can see ANY stars at all. Why do so many people feel the need to light the night up so brightly it screws with the circadian rhythm of everyone and everything near them?

Thomas
1 month ago

In March my wife and I decided to go to Death Valley. My friends all said how beautiful the sky was way out there .No ground light.
Never gave a thought to FULL MOON. Very disappointed. Next time I’ll think ahead.

Wayne
1 month ago
Reply to  Thomas

Stay for two weeks and the moon will go away. We were there (Texas Springs) in March also this year and I was disappointed because Jupiter and saturn were below the horizon the hours I wanted to be awake. Planet location is something you may want to consider when planning your next adventure.

MICHELE
1 month ago

Fireflys are also dying to extinction because they need dark to reproduce. Turning off outside house / RV lights will help them tremendously. Their loss will have a domino effect on all of nature.

Helen Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  MICHELE

I never realized that! I love to go out to watch the fireflies, but then I turn my outside lights on when I go back in…so now they stay off. I’ve got dogs to keep the boogieman away. Thank you!

MICHELE
1 month ago
Reply to  Helen Fisher

Watching fireflys is a wonderful time. I love it at age 71 as much as I did in my childhood. I didn’t know this until I read an article on a nature website.

Kelley Miller
1 month ago

If you want to learn more about the impacts of light pollution, I highly recommend the documentary film called The City Dark. I’ve watched it several times, and it is very good. I live about an hour east of Dallas, TX, and I have been able to see the Andromeda Galaxy from my house. But, once a year I go to the Texas Star Party in Ft. Davis, TX to really see wonderful dark skies. It was cancelled this year (was planned for the past week).

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

The ONLY time we see the Milky Way is when we boondock. Here in Nevada there is lots of space for that.

Doug Grove
2 years ago

As an amateur astronomer, dark skies are important to me. I travel monthly to Cherry Springs State Park, near Galeton, PA., for the dark skies.
We just recently returned from a trip to Yellowstone, and then Glenrock, WY, for the solar eclipse. Considering how crowded the campground in Yellowstone was, the skies were relatively dark since the only lights for the driveways in the campground were about 3 feet above the ground and pointed down. Very few campers had their porch, or decorative, lights on. It was nice to walk around the campground at night and be able to see the Milky Way.
People just don;t understand what they are missing by having “insecurity” lights on. And the money they are wasting in energy.

Janice Kibbe
2 years ago

We were camping in Durham Maine this past weekend anxious to see the Perseid meteor showers. Sadly it was too cloudy on 8/12 to see them but 8/13 was nice and clear. We saw quite a few leftover meteors overhead, however, our viewing was impacted by all the outdoor lighting campers hang around their site, from their awnings, under their campers, outdoor security lighting and even blinking/flashing light shows. Turn off the lights and look up! You’ll be surprised what you might see!

Janice Kibbe
2 years ago
Reply to  Janice Kibbe

Oops, forgot to add a link to a great video about light pollution. City Dark on PBS is an excellent movie. Here’s the link: https://www.pbs.org/pov/citydark/