In so many ways, we have lost the night’s sky – we have lost that canopy of stars and planets – we have lost that band of brightness we call the milky way. We have lost the nights sky because we live in urban centres where massive amounts of light fill the space around us and fill the night sky. The few stars that we do see are only the brightest – those that are able to pierce through the light pollution from our floodlighted factories and streets – from our over-lit suburbs.
It is something remarkable we have lost – this is the price we pay for electricity and artificial lights, for wastefulness and excess. Some days you’ve got to wonder whether the price of artificial light has been worth it. If you are lucky enough to get out of the city from time to time, and to do find yourself outside on a clear night, you will see so many stars overhead. And since our sun and our planet lie within the plane of a spiral galaxy, you will see that beautiful band of whiteness – that undifferentiated light of so many stars lying within the plane of our galaxy.
In ancient cultures, of course, there was no problem with light pollution – in ancient cultures there was no dome of refracted light blotting out the stars. And so in ancient times everyone had a front row seat to the beauty of the night’s sky. Did they pay any more attention to the stars than we do? In some senses no doubt they did – the stars were right there, in all their glory. Though perhaps for ancient peoples it was such an everyday reality that some rarely turned their attention to the skies. Continue reading