Tuesday, August 28, 2007
SoHo, August 2007
I read an interesting article in The New Yorker last week about the disappearance of the dark night sky - how there are fewer and fewer places in the world where we can see the stars as people would have seen them 200 years ago.
Imagine - back then, with everyone using candlelight and oil lamps, you could probably have seen a vast array of stars and planets even from the middle of New York. Now you can see only the brightest of stars, and they look like pale specks floating in an orangey, sodium-vapor-tinted soup.
When I was a kid in Florida, we used to be able to see the Milky Way galaxy from our front yard. We looked straight up, and there it was - a wide, pale band across the sky. (I couldn’t quite figure out why anyone thought it looked like a candy bar.) Even then, though, the sky to the south, over the city of Tampa, was too bright to see stars well.
It was only in Morocco, where I lived in a village with no electricity, that I saw a truly dark sky. Not only could I see the Milky Way - I could see satellites spinning across the heavens, not to mention dozens of shooting stars. I didn’t need a telescope, either. I remember lying on my roof one night, listening to a new mix tape that my friend Kevin sent me, watching the show.
One of the few things I dislike about New York is the absence of stars. We lose something as a species when we can’t look up and be amazed. We forget that there’s no ceiling to our world, and so much more than just us.