Yosemite Nature Notes: Night Skies/Yosemite National Park

Get Your Night Sky on With This Yosemite Video

November 20, 2012

Astronomers may operate in the dark, but they actually want to share the light. Starlight, that is.

With all the varieties of pollution saturating our air and water, we often forget the visual pollution—a plethora of light. Light pollution threatens to drown out our night skies, say the makers of this video at Yosemite National Park.

“There's an infinite amount of stars, and when you live your life in the cities, in the suburbs, in places surrounded by lights, you don't really get to appreciate how profound and magnificent the night sky is,” says one of the narrators in this captivating video.

The sight is both awe-inspiring and humbling, making the precariousness and preciousness of Mother Earth’s very existence hit home.

"The sense of scale involved in looking at the sky is enormous,” says another voice. “You realize that we live on a tiny spaceship that's orbiting this average star in a galaxy full of 200 billion stars."

With its vast acreage and remote location, Yosemite boasts some of the darkest night skies on Turtle Island, the video notes inform us. The park draws astronomers, city folk and photographers alike to ogle planets, stars and galaxies. You can gauge your own night sky at the National Park Service (NPS) website and read more about dark night skies versus light pollution at Yosemite's site.

"When people come out here they're just amazed at what you can see,” says astrophotographer Al Howard in the video. “Once you get dark-adapted you actually can see your shadow out here from the light of the Milky Way."

Through a telescope the Andromeda galaxy is transformed from the urban view of a mere smudge that's nearly drowned out by human-generated light, to an actual dotted spiral befitting its 600 billion stars.

"There are more stars in that galaxy than there are people on the earth by a factor of 100," the video informs us by way of perspective.

Imagine, as one commenter notes below the video, this sky 2,000 years or so ago—long before contact and its resultant heartbreak, back when the world really was, well, old.

"We think people have been looking at this night sky from this place for maybe eight or nine thousand years,” another narrator says. “For me, I just feel a kinship with people across time. The people who are standing here presently as well as the people who have been here before."

In other words, these sky aficionados demonstrate, there is no need to be afraid of the dark. In fact, it may contain more light than we think.



Lucas's picture
Submitted by Lucas on

I have inherited some land, so this ecffets me. To me all this does is confirm and enhance my distaste and suspicion for those who use the rule of law for their own personal gain and/or prestige. Greed and self importance always seems to take the day. How much is enough? When will it stop? Native people for generations have pondered these things. Land, money, natural resources seem to corrupt and change things and always the Indian gets the short end of the stick. These lawyers fit that mold that I have in my mind of what law is all about. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Unfortunely they will never understand,the strength and richness Indian people have is in the land itself, our ancesters made it that way.


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