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The topic of light pollution has made it to the big screen. The new documentary, The City Dark, premiered at the 2011 South by Southwest film festival and it won the Jury Prize for best score and music. The filmmaker, Ian Cheney, moved from rural Maine to extremely light polluted New York City. He asks the question, “Do we need the dark?” In his quest for the answer, he explores the threat of killer asteroids in Hawaii, tracks hatching turtles in Florida and rescues injured birds on Chicago streets.

In so doing, Cheney works to understand the numerous ramifications of a globe glittering with lights. They include increasing breast cancer rates from too much exposure to light at night as well as simply an entire generation who have never seen the stars above them.

Ian Cheney on roof

Ian Cheney on roof gazing at the sky

The film features Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at Hayden Planetarium, Don Pettit, a NASA astronaut, Ann Druyan, co-writer of the book Cosmos and astrophotographer Jack Newton, Chris Impey, cosmologist at University of Arizona, Jane Brox, the author of Brilliant, Susan Elbin, ornithologist and many others.

The film summary provided by City Dark press kit states, “THE CITY DARK chronicles the disappearance of darkness. The film follows filmmaker (and amateur astronomer) Ian Cheney, who moves to New York City from Maine and discovers an urban sky almost completely devoid of stars. Posing a deceptively simple question—“What do we lose, when we lose the night?”—the film leads viewers on a quest to understand how light pollution affects people and the planet. In six chapters weaving together cutting-edge science with personal, meditative sequences reflecting on the human relationship to the sky, THE CITY DARK shines new light on the meaning of the dark.

Starting with the simple question, “why do we need the stars?” by Ian Chesney, the film evolves weaving astronomy, history, biology, ecology, astrophysics and even criminology bringing to the viewer a fuller discussion and perspective of what light pollution is and how it affects all of us than most people have ever been exposed to.