It took Hurricane Irene to cause a power outage in Waterford, Connecticut neighborhood to give Melissa Babcock optimal conditions to do some stargazing. There was a new moon that night which made conditions even better. Melissa was able to see a shooting star, the Milky Way and the constellations clearly. This precious time was given to view the sky because there was no light pollution. No street lights, blaring front porch lights and garage lights, and no bright windows from individuals who stay up late were there to obstruct Melissa’s view. The tree that fell in the yard also added to provide a better view of the stars.
Light pollution has caused many stargazers great difficulties viewing the heavens. Pollution from light is the biggest culprit in obstructing the view. Artificial light not only goes straight up but reflects back, and this is what causes the pollution. It is not only stargazers who can not see the sky, but also an extremely powerful telescope can’t see the stars. The telescope filters eliminate only some of the light pollution, not all of it. When using these filters, the objects in the sky can not be seen to be as bright as they actually are. The biggest negative factor of the telescope filters is they do not work on stars or galaxies.
It is very difficult because of the way our cities and towns have grown to find a place where you can see the stars, Milky Way and the constellations. To find a place for stargazing use the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale. This is a system which has nine levels to measure the brightness of the sky at night and the stars at a specific location. It seems if you love to stargaze you have a difficult job ahead of you! You don’t always have a hurricane to turn off the light pollution.