One of the sad parts about living in the endless sprawl of Atlanta is the light pollution. I am a low-grade astronomy buff, but you just can’t see very much here.
Our children know Polaris, the Big Dipper, Venus, and Orion’s belt. That’s about it. We miss part of the richness of existence when we aren’t connected with the heavens. This old story made me sad exactly because it’s so easy to believe.
In his book “Nightwatch,” the well-known Canadian astronomer Terrence Dickinson comments that in the aftermath of the predawn 1994 Northridge, California earthquake, electrical power was knocked out over a wide area. Tens of thousands of people in southern California rushed out of their homes looked up and perhaps for the first time in their lives saw a dark, starry sky. In the days and weeks that followed, radio stations and observatories in the Los Angeles area received countless numbers of phone calls from concerned people who wondered whether the sudden brightening of the stars and the appearance of an eerie silvery cloud (the Milky Way) might have caused the quake.
“Such reaction,” notes Dickinson, “can come only from people who have never seen the night sky away from city lights.”