A week ago Sunday I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. with the purpose of getting up and attempting to take photos of the Milky Way. It was a new moon night and the forecast was for clear skies. My experience with night sky photography is very limited and I wanted to give it another try. I am not a fan of getting up in the middle of the night but I dragged myself out of bed when the alarm went off, grumbling about the early hour to our dog, who didn’t seem very empathetic. I made a cup of coffee and put it in my small insulated mug to take with me.
I shut the door of the house, turned my headlamp on, and walked the 150 yards to my chosen photo location, a barn near the house. The cattle were lying nearby and they, too, ignored my grumbling. Using a flashlight I “painted” the barn with light for part of each exposure so it would show up in the photo.
Eventually, the cattle decided my activity was keeping them from sleeping and they got up and “moooved” away. I congratulated myself for having the foresight to wear rubber boots as I stepped in a cow patty.
The fireflies were more tolerant of my presence and put on a show. I was pleased that several of them were captured by my camera, seen in the lower left-hand corner of the photo. After what seemed like just a little while I looked at my watch and was surprised that an hour and a half had passed. Clouds were beginning to appear and it was time to make the short walk back to the house and bed.
The light pollution was not obvious to me while taking the photos, but it is readily apparent on the horizon of the photo. There is no town for many miles in that direction; I think most of the light was coming from outdoor security lights some distance away.
Light pollution has greatly reduced what we can see in the night sky. It is difficult to see the Milky Way around here with just our eyes; it takes a long exposure with a camera to capture the details. Street lights, cell tower lighting, and security lights are just some of the many sources of light pollution. In a city, it might be difficult to see more than a few of the brightest stars. Even in the Kentucky countryside, miles from the nearest town, light pollution from distant sources has a detrimental effect on viewing the night sky. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of areas in Kentucky that are still categorized as dark sky locations, and the size of those is shrinking.