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General Astronomy >> General Observing and Astronomy

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Tony Flanders
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Reged: 05/18/06

Loc: Cambridge, MA, USA
Re: First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW new [Re: BrooksObs]
      #5677321 - 02/13/13 09:53 AM

Quote:

Be advised that you are dramatically in error about the conditions that prevailed years ago in Westchester and further north. Those were the days of tungsten illumination and the skies just outside major cities were darker than can be found today 75-100 miles away. Night skies immediately outside White Plains NY in the early 60's allowed naked eye detection of 11-12 Pleiades any clear night and up in Dutchess Country at that time sky darkness rivaled Palomar and McDonald Observatories.




Sorry, when you said "even a decade later," I assumed you were talking about the 1970s.

I imagine some people could see 11 Pleiads outside White Plains in 1960 -- though that has a lot more to do with visual acuity than sky brightness.

And I'm quite sure that parts of Dutchess County then were darker than Palomar now. First of all, Palomar isn't very dark. In addition, the northeast corner of Dutchess is pretty dark right now.

Quote:

Younger hobbyists like yourself honestly have no concept whatever of how dark skies were, and had been for ages, before the coming of non-tungsten outdoor lighting I'm afraid.




Umm, I'm not exactly a spring chicken. Everybody's childhood seems to have stretched for an eternity, but those "ages" that you're talking about were in fact not very long.

Obviously, skies everywhere were dark before electric lights. But the time lapse between the advent of widespread rural electrification and metal-vapor lights was shorter than between the advent of metal-vapor lights and now.


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csrlice12
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW new [Re: BrooksObs]
      #5677336 - 02/13/13 10:05 AM

Yup, I'd say the skies I had in small town Indiana (Pop 4,000) in the 60s were at least equal to a blue zone dark site now. I can only imagine what New Mexico/Arizona skies were like then. I will say, the darkest I've seen was when I was in Thule, Greenland (no light pollution there).

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BrooksObs
professor emeritus


Reged: 12/08/12

Re: First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW new [Re: Tony Flanders]
      #5677349 - 02/13/13 10:14 AM

Again, Tony, I must point out that you are just a kid in the hobby compared to my tenure (starting in '54) and undoubtedly never saw the skies in the urban pre Mercury Vapor era. Those just outside White Plains, NY, in the early 60's were NELM 6.5+ and in Dutchess County 7.5+, the latter quite comparable to Palomar at that time. The Gegenschien was a nightly feature of the heavens, sometimes together with the Zodiacal Band. Who can even claiming seeing them anymore? The Milky Way to the naked eye was as sharply structured as many of today's photos when I permanently moved to southern Dutchess in 1970.

Considering that Mercury Vapor lighting and its successors have been with us almost exactly 50 years, then yes the tungsten era lasted only a little longer. However, tungsten was far, far less objectionable and damaging to sky darkness then what came later. Only those still around who were practicing amateur astronomers in that era can truly appreciate how bad things have become.

BrooksObs

Edited by BrooksObs (02/13/13 10:17 AM)


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Starman1
Vendor (EyepiecesEtc.com)
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Reged: 06/24/03

Loc: Los Angeles
Re: First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW new [Re: BrooksObs]
      #5677492 - 02/13/13 11:27 AM

Sigh.
In the late '50s and early '60s in my home town of Terre Haute, Indiana (a city of 80,000 at the time), a mile and a half from downtown i could see magnitude 6.2 stars at night on clear nights (not too common in TH). I'd say it was the equivalent of today's "green zone". Not too bad for being in the city.
Moreover, the city used to turn off all the downtown lights after 11pm (can you imagine that today?) and there were no shopping centers or brightly illuminated car lots at the time.

10 miles outside the city, the skies were as dark as any I've seen in the desert southwest.

I left in Jan.1977 for sunny Southern California.

I went back in 1995, and the population had dropped to 67,000, but there were shopping centers and car lots and brightly illuminated gas stations galore. And mercury vapor lights on every farm and rural yard.
Though I didn't do a magnitude estimate, the Milky Way was no longer visible 5 miles outside of town and only a handful of stars were visible in town.

At least for my home town, night had been banished for its children. People would no longer grow up with the Milky Way overhead and no longer see most of the constellations--ever.

In pursuit of daylight at night, we have robbed our children of the night.
I would hope that everyone reading this thread is already a member of the International Dark Sky Association. They are one of the few organizations effectively fighting for the night skies.


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SeptemberEquinox
sage
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Reged: 01/29/12

Re: First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW new [Re: BrooksObs]
      #5678201 - 02/13/13 07:11 PM

What can we do to have darker skies??



Edited by SeptemberEquinox (02/13/13 07:14 PM)


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Starman1
Vendor (EyepiecesEtc.com)
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Reged: 06/24/03

Loc: Los Angeles
Re: First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW new [Re: SeptemberEquinox]
      #5678256 - 02/13/13 07:56 PM

See http://www.darksky.org/
Many things we can do, starting with our own homes and neighborhoods.


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drbyyz
sage
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Reged: 11/04/12

Re: First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW new [Re: Starman1]
      #5678299 - 02/13/13 08:25 PM

Quote:

See http://www.darksky.org/
Many things we can do, starting with our own homes and neighborhoods.




Thanks Don, I've only recently become aware of the IDA and am definitely looking into becoming a contributor or helping in their efforts in whatever way I can.

My days of skygazing don't date back as far as some of your's, however I've even noticed a large difference in the past few years. I moved out of my parents house about 10 years ago. When I lived there, it was milky way from horizon to horizon. Beautiful skies. Now when I go back to visit, half the sky is aglow from all the new shopping centers springing up. It's a sad thing to see go, especially since as a kid those were the skies I spent countless nights under learning to appreciate the night sky, and now it's almost gone from that backyard.

I haven't done too much outreach, but any chance I get to show someone the night sky looking better than they've ever seen it, I always go for the chance. One of my favorite memories is taking my wife to Maine and going outside with her one really clear evening and looking up. She was shocked at the night sky and said "too bad it's kind of cloudy"...those clouds were the Milky Way...a "holy cow" moment followed soon after that explanation. Priceless.


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Gastrol
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 11/04/11

Loc: los angeles
Re: First Darkest Sky, WOWWOWWOW new [Re: SeptemberEquinox]
      #5679568 - 02/14/13 02:03 PM

Quote:

Near Palomar Observatory, maybe quater mile away from the Observatory.




You mentioned bicycle rides. I've also ridden up to Palomar, taking the South Grade road up to the top, and then down the other side to Lake Henshaw. I've never been up there with my astro gear though.


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