Light pollution: It's not pretty

The constellation Orion, imaged at left from dark skies, and at right from the teeming metropolis of Orem, UT at the heart of the Utah County megalopolis comprising about half a million people. (Note: The preceding is sarcasm. Orem, UT is hardly a large city. This is intended to highlight the fact that light pollution is a problem everywhere, not just in cities with tens of millions of inhabitants.)


The Illuminati Project seeks photos that showcase "the beauty of light pollution", presumably so we'll have a record after the problem goes away?


There's no beauty in light pollution. Unnecessary, excessive, and misdirected light wastes energy, wastes money, generates air pollution, and is actually detrimental to safety and security since the glare harms dark adaptation and effectively makes shadows deeper. And last but not least, light pollution destroys the beauty of the night sky that has inspired mankind for millennia.


(Individual photos here.)

  • Scott 6y

    Flickr Star
  • Valerio_B 6y

    Wow vn
  • Andrew Edgley 6y

    That depresses me to no end. Though I will admit its great going camping or going to the islands and just taking it in. Its something that you could do for hours and still be blown away.
  • ejbSF 6y

    Gawd, is this sad. I live in the Bay Area, SF to be exact, and am lucky if I see 4 or 5 stars on a non-foggy night. OTOH, I've spent an evening stargazing in the High Sierra and it's absolutely astonishing. The Milky Way up there looks as if somebody painted it with a thick brush. Thanks for the instructive photo.
  • TullyK. 6y

    Did you take the 1st half of the picture at the natural bridges?
  • tehbillis 6y

    You will never guess where i live!!!

    pretty cool comparison btw. it really brings it into perspective.
  • Christian M 6y

    which equipment did you use for taking this astonishing picture?
  • Quanticusius 6y

    this is nothing compare to where i live near barcelona
  • Mesostinky 6y

    Great shots. To estimate the view from NJ/NYC take the picture on the right and block out 99% of the stars. Sad.
  • jpstanley 6y

    @TullyK.: Not quite that far out - it was somewhere by the side of the road in Millard County, near Mammoth, UT. Orion was high in the southern sky at the time.

    @brennuskrux: I used a Canon 400D with a 50mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8, riding on top of an Orion (how appropriate!) SkyView Pro equatorial mount. I took a bunch of 5-minute-or-so exposures and combined them in software to bring out the fainter details.
  • Laser one 6y

    wow, this is amazing.
  • carlamatic 6y

    Think that's bad? Come to LA. There are places here where you can't see ANY stars. Where I live in Santa Monica the night sky is a little more washed out than the right half of this picture, but on a really good night you can still see a lot.
  • Christian M 6y

    @jpstanley - thanks for the information!
  • jpstanley 6y

    @bwanderson: I actually got a shot of Orion in LA when I was there on business last fall. (Clear skies, new moon, and I was stuck in Los Angeles. Oh well.)

    @digg visitors: Welcome, and thanks for doubling my photostream views in a single day! I'd just like to address a common comment made there:

    Yes, strictly speaking, the stars on the left side are brighter because there's more exposure (specifically, a wider aperture and higher ISO level; actual exposure times are comparable). But notice that the sky itself is much darker despite the additional exposure. If I would have used the same exposure settings on the right side, the stars would have been just as bright, if they were visible--which they would not be, because the background would be solid white - completely burned out. Light pollution doesn't darken the stars per se, but it appears to -- in photos and to our own eyes -- by eliminating the contrast between the faint stars and the background sky.
  • Donn Muk 6y

    The two pictures were taken to emphasize the difference between dark skies and cities; let's focus on the problem and not how photometrically accurate the images are.
  • Abdullah 6y

    This is a subject close to my heart - I've been "campaigning" for a long time to get our Housing Estate's lighting changed to a "Dark Sky" approved type...
  • da burger 6y

    This isn't really a good way to show the differences. The two pictures are obviously exposed a lot, If you want to really compare, use pictures that are not so much exposed.

    i mean where i live in West Valley City, the Orion Nebula is not visible and here it is. So this is a less light polluted area.
  • jpstanley 6y

    @da burger: You're right in that both photos show more than is visible to the naked eye. The key here, though, is that the left photo has something like 10 times the exposure as the photo on the right, and yet it still has a darker background.

    In this photo, I tried to match the exposure to apparent visual brightness.
  • da burger 6y

    I see, well it really does make me mad. I hate light pollution and I am going to do something about it. Starting with my neighbors of course. some of them are good family friends and One day I will have a talk with them to get them concerned about light pollution too.
  • Remco Boerma 4y

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Uploaded on January 8, 2009
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