Video highlights the nighttime sky shows we're missing

Video highlights the nighttime sky shows we're missing
On the left: The nighttime glow of the Puget Sound region. On the right, the Northern Lights are visible in Eastern Washington. Photo courtesy: Don Jensen

Photographer Don Jensen is on a mission.

An outdoor and astronomy enthusiast, Jensen has developed a narrative time lapse video that shows what humanity's efforts to erase the nighttime darkness in our cities has taken on the night sky, and the interaction (or lack thereof) that we are having with starry skies. 

"Escape the Light Dome" introduces us to our world where we are blinding ourselves to a view of the universe.

"I think it is important to educate people about the existence and scope of light pollution," Jensen wrote on his video's Vimeo page.

"Beyond that, hopefully this video will inspire people to get out there, and experience first hand what a sky full of stars looks like."



Jensen says people have no idea what they're missing.

"I've spent many sunsets in the mountains with moderate crowds, and I am always amazed how quick people are to leave before it gets dark," he said. "I understand there is a primordial fear of the dark that is built into us. I get that. However, I also know that there is a different kind of beauty that the night sky brings to the landscape. And, when you wait a little, and let your eyes adjusted to the lack of light, it is a far less frightening place than most would imagine. It's actually quite spectacular."

He has a challenge for all of us.

"Everyone should make it a point to spend at least two nights under the stars," he said. "First, spend a night under the full moon or nearly full moon. When you look down, and see your own shadow on the ground, and realize that is being cast by the light reflecting off of the moon, it is an amazing sensation. It doesn't even seem real.

"Next spend a night under a moonless sky. The sheer number of stars is overwhelming. The Sagittarius arm of the of the Milky Way can be seen extending across the sky. The level of wonderment created by this view is off the charts."

He says the daytime beauty of the Pacific Northwest is obvious. His video aims to highlight the nighttime beauty.

"It was important to show that the Northwest can be every bit a beautiful at night as it is during the day. Seeing snow capped peaks under the stars, is an awe inspiring sight," he said. "Watching the lights of climbers move around on Mount Rainier under a starry sky brings an interesting connection to someone you will probably never meet. And standing next to a perfectly calm tarn or lake, and seeing the stars reflect off of that body of water is just spectacular. If you haven't seen these things, you are missing out."

He's hoping his message will be shared with elected officials who might be able to do something about the light dome.

"Get them to watch it, and then ask them what kind of future they want to leave behind," Jensen said. "First, let them see what we as a people are doing to our night skies. More importantly, let them see how totally inefficient we are going about lighting our cities. We can help mitigate this issue by pushing for more efficient lighting practices. This is not about saying everyone needs to turn their lights off at night. It's simply about asking if we are using the right light fixtures to with the right amount of lights to illuminate our streets, sidewalks, and porches."

He's providing links for more efficient lighting and also aiming to establish Dark Sky Parks for nighttime viewing vistas.

"At the end of the night, I can concede that I might never stand outside of Pike Place Market, and look up and see the Milky Way," Jensen said. However, I will not concede that this should be an ever expanding trend where we have fewer an fewer places from which we can see a sky full of stars. We really are a little more than the sum of the world we leave behind."