Tag Archives: Milky Way

Milky Way no longer visible to one third of humanity, light pollution atlas shows

One could always move to North Korea and have a perfect view of the Milky Way.

north korea

From The Guardian: It has inspired astronomers, artists, musicians and poets but the Milky Way could become a distant memory for much of humanity, a new global atlas of light pollution suggests.

The study reveals that 60% of Europeans and almost 80% of North Americans cannot see the glowing band of our galaxy because of the effects of artificial lighting, while it is imperceptible to the entire populations of Singapore, Kuwait and Malta.

Overall, the Milky Way is no longer visible to more than one third of the world’s population.

Lead author Fabio Falchi from the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Italy said the situation was a “cultural loss of unprecedented magnitude.”

Chris Elvidge of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a co-author of the study, added that the times he has seen the Milky Way have been magical experiences.  “Through our technology we’ve cut off that possibility for large numbers of people for multiple generations now,” he said. “We’ve lost something – but how do we place value on it?”

Described by John Milton as “a broad and ample road whose dust is gold, and pavement stars,” the Milky Way is so obscured by the effects of modern lighting that it is no longer visible to 77% of the UK population, with the galaxy masked from view across nearly 14% of the country, including regions stretching from London to Liverpool and Leeds.

Further afield, areas around the cities of Hong Kong, Beijing and a large stretch of the East Coast of America are among those where a glimpse of the galactic band is out of the question – a situation also found across much of Qatar, the Netherlands and Israel. In Belgium, it cannot be seen in 51% of the country.

“Humanity has enveloped our planet in a luminous fog that prevents most of Earth’s population from having the opportunity to observe our galaxy,” the authors write.

Published in the journal Science Advances by an international team of scientists, the research is based on data collected from space by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, together with computer models of sky luminescence and professional and citizen science measurements of sky brightness taken from the ground.

milky way

The resulting global atlas reveals that large swaths of humanity experience light pollution, including more than 99% of people living in the US and the European Union. People living near Paris would have to travel 900km to areas as such central Scotland, Corsica or central Spain to find a region with night skies almost unpolluted by light, the authors add.

By contrast, Central African Republic and Madagascar are among the countries least affected by light pollution, with nearly the entirety of Greenland boasting pristine skies.

“Until the advent of night-time lighting became really prominent in the 19th and 20th centuries, everybody would have been familiar with the Milky Way,” said Marek Kukula, public astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, who was not involved in the study. “We see it in mythology about the sky, in all cultures around the world. It is one of the obvious components of the sky along with the stars, the planets and the moon.”

When light from our streetlamps, homes and illuminations is thrown up into the sky it bounces off particles and moisture droplets in the atmosphere and is scattered, resulting in artificial “sky glow” – one of the key factors contributing to light pollution. The upshot is that spectacles like the Milky Way can become obscured from view.

“The night sky is part of our natural heritage. It is beautiful, it is awe-inspiring and being able to see it is a way for us to connect to the wider universe and understand our place in the natural world,” said Kukula. ”If we lose that it is a shame because we have lost that direct connection with something much bigger than us and something that is very beautiful.”

The situation could become worse. According to the new study, if all sodium lights are replaced with cool white LED lighting, artificial sky brightness seen across Europe could more than double as a result of the increase in blue-light emission.

And it isn’t only our view of the night sky that is affected by light pollution. “There are also biological consequences, not only on birds and insects and mammals, but also even on humans,” said Elvidge, pointing out that the light pollution can disrupt the natural behaviour of animals and has raised a number of human health concerns.

It isn’t all doom and gloom. Despite the Milky Way being masked from view in many cities across the UK there are still regions of the country where it is possible to get a good view of the night sky. “There are various dark sky parks and reserves in the UK which have been internationally certified by the International Dark Sky Association to have low levels of light pollution – places like Galloway Forest Park,” said Kukula, adding that various online tools can help to direct stargazers to the right part of the sky.

But the authors of the new study say more needs to be done to tackle the issue of light pollution. Among possible measures, says Elvidge, are the use of more shielded street lighting, motion-activated lights and cut-off times for illuminating buildings.

Kukula agrees, “It will reduce our electricity bills, it will reduce our carbon footprint, it won’t affect the lighting that we have on the streets,” he said. “And it will allow us to see more of the wonders of the night sky.”

Read the whole story here.



Sunday Devotional: Being Thankful

Psalm 92:2-6

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praise to Your name, Most High,
To proclaim Your love at daybreak,
Your faithfulness in the night,
With the ten-stringed harp,
with melody upon the lyre.
For you make me jubilant, Lord, by Your deeds;
at the works of Your hands I shout for joy.
How great are Your works, Lord!
How profound Your designs!

Milky Way

Milky Way

Study after study find that gratitude, not money, is the key to being happy. Happy people tend to:

  • express gratitude on a regular basis;
  • practice being optimistic;
  • engage in frequent acts of kindness;
  • savor joyful events; and
  • practice forgiveness.

Just remember: Whatever we have — our body and mind, talents and skills, family and friends, and life itself — are all wholly and entirely gratuitous (unearned) gifts from the Creator.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always.
Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Blue Tit-Blaumeise3

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you!


Creation: Earth in the unimaginably vast Universe

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” -Psalm 19:1

Do you want to see how our Earth, that tiny blue marble in the solar system, compares to other bodies in the Universe?

Here are some visual aids (Source: BabaMail):


Try to imagine the truly awesome, mind-boggling Being who created all this — this unimaginably vast Universe that our puny human pea-brain can’t even begin to grasp or comprehend.

It is said that when St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the towering intellect and theologian, was near death, he was given a glimpse of the Godhead. Humbled and awed, he whispered, referring to all of the many and brilliant works he had written in his lifetime: “All is straw.”

No wonder our Lord Jesus the Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead who humbled Himself by incarnating as vulnerable body and flesh, instructed us that:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:16)

H/t FOTM’s Catherine


Sunday Devotional: Light of the World

jesus-christ-crucification-crossJohn 8:12

I am the light of the world,
says the Lord;
whoever follows me
will have the light of life.

Milky Way from Yellowstone Natl ParkThe Milky Way, as seen from Yellowstone National Park

Ephesians 5:8-14

Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light,
for light produces every kind
of goodness and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness;
rather expose them,
for it is shameful even to mention things done by them in secret;
but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,
for everything that becomes visible is light.
Therefore, it says:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light.”


Creation: The Milky Way

Mark Gee is the winner of the Earth & Space category and the overall winner of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013.

This is his breathtaking winning photo — of the Milky Way, taken from Cape Palliser, New Zealand.

Click pic to enlarge. You must! 🙂

The Milky Way from New Zealand Source: The Guardian

H/t FOTM’s Joseph


Creation sings of the Living God

Milky WayThe Milky Way (click to enlarge – you simply must!)

The Evidential Power of Beauty

by Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.June 25, 2013

“Beauty is the battlefield where God and Satan contend for the hearts of men.”– Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“Late have I loved thee, Beauty so old and so new; late have I loved thee. Lo, you were within, but I was outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong — I, misshapen. You were with me, but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being, were they not in you.” – Augustine, The Confessions

A friend once told me the story of how she first met God. She doesn’t remember her age; it must have been about 4 or 5. Her family lived in the countryside on the rim of one of our big eastern cities. And one June evening, cloudless, moonless, with just the hint of a humid breeze, her father took her out into the back yard in the dark and told her to look up at the sky. From one horizon to the other, all across the black carpet of the night, were the stars — thousands of them, tens of thousands, in clusters and rivers of light. And in the quiet, her father said, “God made the world beautiful because he loves us.”

That was more than 50 years ago. My friend grew up and learned all about entropy and supernovae and colliding galaxies and quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity. But still, when she closes her eyes, she can see that carpet of stars and hear her father’s voice. God made the world beautiful because he loves us.

Creation is more than an accident of dead matter. It’s a romance. It has purpose. It sings of the Living God. It bears his signature.

The story of my friend offers several lessons we might consider this week as summer begins and life starts to briefly slow down.

First, the most powerful kind of witness doesn’t come from a classroom or pulpit. It doesn’t need an academic degree or special techniques. Instead, it grows naturally out of the lives of ordinary people–parents and spouses and friends; people confident in the love that God bears for them and eager to share it with others; people who know the world not as a collection of confused facts but as a symphony of truth and meaning.

Second, nature is sacramental. It points to things outside itself. God speaks and creation sings in silence. We can’t hear either if we’re cocooned in a web of manufactured distraction, anxiety and noise. We can’t see the heavens if our faces are buried in technologies that turn us inward on ourselves. Yet that’s exactly what modern American life seems to promote: a restless and relentless material appetite for “more,” that gradually feeds selfishness and separates each of us from everyone else.

Third and finally, every experience of real beauty leads us closer to three key virtues: humility, because the grandeur of creation invites awe and lifts us outside ourselves; love, because the human heart was made for glory and joy, and only the Author of life can satisfy its longings; and hope, because no sadness, no despair, can ultimately survive the evidence of divine meaning that beauty provides. If the world we see taking shape around us today in the name of a false freedom often seems filled with cynicism, ugliness, little blasphemies and sadness, we need to ask why. And then we need to turn our hearts again to the God of beauty – Augustine’s “Beauty so old and so new” — who created us, who sings his longing for us in the grandeur of the world he made, and who renews our souls.

God lives in the summer rain, the stars in the night sky, the wind in the leaves of the trees. He speaks to us through a creation alive with his love. We need to be silent, and watch and listen. And then we need to join in nature’s symphony of praise.

This article was originally published at http://archphila.org

peach roses3From Eowyn’s garden – after a summer rain, 2013.


Creation: Largest structure in Universe

“Praise you the Lord:
for it is good to sing praises unto our God…
He determines the number of the stars;
he calls them all by their names.
Great is our Lord, and of great power:
His understanding is infinite.” -Psalm 147:1-5

Milky WayMilky Way

A light-year is a unit of length equivalent to about 6 trillion miles (or 10 trillion kilometres). As defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a light-year is the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one Julian year.

The light-year is mostly used to measure distances to stars and other distances on a galactic scale. Note that the light-year is a measure of distance rather than, as is sometimes misunderstood, a measure of time.

Imagine the distance of 4 BILLION light years.

That’s the length of a recently-discovered largest structure in our Universe.

Large Quasar Group

Agence France-Presse reports that on Jan. 11, 2013, astronomers said they had observed the largest structure yet seen in the cosmos, a cluster of galaxies from the early Universe that spans an astonishing four billion light years.

The sprawling structure is known as a large quasar group (LQG), in which quasars — the nuclei of ancient galaxies, powered by supermassive black holes — clump together.

From Wikipedia, here’s an artist’s rendering of ULAS J1120+0641, a very distant quasar powered by a black hole with a mass two billion times that of the Sun.

Artist's_rendering_ULAS_J1120+0641Photo credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The discovery in the deep Universe was made by a team led by Roger Clowes at the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute at Britain’s University of Central Lancashire.

It would take a spaceship traveling at the speed of light four thousand million years to get from one end of the cluster to the other.

To give a sense of scale, our galaxy (the Milky Way) is separated from its nearest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, by two and a half million light years.

Clowes said in a press statement issued by Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society (RAS): “While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire Universe. This is hugely exciting, not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the Universe.”

The paper appears in a RAS journal, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.