Sunday, July 16, 2006

Darkness

Last night, and this morning, I breathed life back into a half-finished project from a couple of years ago: hand-sketching little constellation charts.





(with a little help from Skyglobe, the very program I used to learn constellations fifteen years ago, in full DOS glory)


I stopped originally when it became frustratingly clear that they were bugger-all use in Brighton, where you're lucky if you can make out the Big Dipper. The rest of South East England isn't a great deal better.

But I've been re-inspired by finally deciding to visit, perhaps in October, the place with the darkest sky in the UK.

How often do we experience the real darkness of the night? Or the real silence, for that matter? Not just the absence of light, or noise, but the living magic of the night, undulled by the atmospheric glow of street-lights or traffic noise?













(Source: The World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness)


According to this, if you're anywhere in Europe the answer is you don't, unless you live on certain small patches of arctic Sweden or Finland, a couple of tiny Greek islands, or the extreme North West of Scotland.

The map shows the brightening of the sky due to artificial light. The light is reflected, scattered, diffused, from particles in the air and from the very air itself. Red represents the most glow, blue the least. If you're lucky enough to live in a grey patch, you'll have no discernible light pollution vertically upwards, but there may be some glow nearer the horizon. Only in the black areas will you see a 'true' night sky, from top to bottom.

So where are the darkest, clearest night skies in the UK? They're at the point of the UK furthest from Brighton! Yay! Not to mention the highest cliffs on the mainland! So I'm off for a week or two in Cape Wrath, and I'll take my sky charts with me. Bye bye Brighton!!

But not just yet - cause... well... you know. The beasties.
Soon. Soon as they've gone.

2 comments:

clare said...

Write more, you swine!

Anonymous said...

very interesting, the way you mix science and nature and writing.

nigel

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