Look what we are missing
Looking at my pictures some of my students noticed that they look somehow artificial. Some called them over-saturated or simply showing 'too many stars' in the wide shots. I wondered and came to the conclusion, that most of the doubters simply haven't had the opportunity to witness a real dark sky. And that's not surprising - there is literally no places left in central Europe that can be considered as naturally darkness.
In February 2019 I spent four weeks in Australia and I came up with the idea to shoot a comparable part of the milky way at three different places to show the consequences of light pollution. Every photo has the exact same technical aspects: Identical Camera, lens, aperture, exposure time, ISO, etc. In each case the camera looked up at about 45 degrees above the horizon. Seeing conditions could be considered as 'pretty good'. As for post production I took the Australia picture as a reference and developed the other frames exactly the same.
Hover with the mouse over the picture and see what happens if I try to crank down the blacks to simulate a black sky.
Switch it off!
The first picture shows the sky at the place where I live. Its outside a German suburban village 30km southwest of Munich counting 6700 inhabitants. Most people from the city would call this a dark place.
The second picture shows the sky at the place where I usually take my deep sky pictures. It's located 70km southwest of Munich and must be considered as one of the darkest places within a 200km reach. It's situated close to the German and Austrian Alps 750 metres above sea level.
The third one was taken at Hammond Road Campground in Victoria, Australia just only 100km south of buzzing Melbourne at only 360m above sea level. (So it can be assumed that there must exist even better places on the continent.)
Look, how the diffuse light of the background influences the perception of the number of stars, how the intensity of the colors fades away and all the details in between aren't noticeable. If I crank down the background to black (which is not completely possible in the first frame) the brilliance of the stars fade and dark dusty areas simply disappear.
In times of global warming, insane amounts of plastic in our oceans, extinction of species and people being forced to leave their homes, should we really care about some stars? Well, it seems that the world has indeed bigger problems than a few lights pointing at the night sky. And yes, there are even advantages of illuminated cites: People feel safer. But the wasteful use of electric light is just another part of a bigger picture. It shows how we deal with nature in general. Weather it is plastic in our seas or carbon based energy - we always chose for instant convenience and forget about the things we have to trade in. In the long run we deprive ourselves of sensations.
So next time you pass your carport illumination - switch it off. If you potentially gonna mount a lamp outdoor - make sure it faces down and has a cover on top. If you are in the position to decide upon an illuminated advertising - go for the weaker one and make sure it's not running the whole night. Don't keep this armaments race going. This saves carbon energy, lets my students judge my pictures more reasonable and you can be assured an Astronomer's appreciation.
These are 25 unmodified images I took within two and a half hours on the last night of 2021. Not a single one is free of satellite tracks. Most probably belong to Elon Musk's Starlink project, as they mostly move across the sky in groups. At the time the sequence was taken, there were about 1800 Starlink satellites in orbit - most of them called 'darksat' or 'vissor' and are supposed to reflect the sun less brieghtly. In the end, Space-X plans to have a colossal number of 30,000. This is another form of light pollution, as it prevents us from getting an unobstructed view of the stars.