Archives for posts with tag: Dark Skies

The Science Geek

“All humans, everywhere in the world and throughout history, have looked up at the sky and wondered at it. This experience is now denied to most people, because of the background light in towns and cities. It is important to ensure that there will be somewhere in England where young people can fully enjoy a cosmic panorama.”     – Martin Rees, the British Astronomer Royal, at the opening of the Northumberland Dark Sky Park in 2013.

What is light pollution?

Light pollution is the unnecessary and excessive use of light at night. It includes such things as over-illuminating the outside of buildings with bright floodlights, excessive use of bright security lights, lights on in offices at night long after all the occupants have left, brightly lit shop windows still blazing when there are no passers-by doing window shopping, and the use of bright streetlights on quiet rural roads where there is little need for this from a health…

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On a clear night in the Southern Hemisphere the sky is filled by the brightest parts of the Milky Way and the prominent dark nebula named the Great Rift, a veil of interstellar cloud drawn across the Milky Way itself for almost a third of the sky from Cygnus to Centaurus. The Great Rift is most visible where it contrasts with the bright hub of our galaxy near the constellation Sagittarius.


The Great Rift is formed by overlapping clouds of cosmic dust about 300 light years distant between our own Orion Arm of the galaxy and the Sagittarius Arm, the next spiral arm inwards towards the galactic centre. The visible gap between the bright spiral arms isn’t empty – the darker dust clouds are some of the densest parts of the galaxy and make up around half of its mass.

2015-07-07 15_03_53-Artist's conception of the Milky Way annotated with arms, and galactic longitude

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