Wall Street Journal Covers the Dark Skies over San Diego


When was the last time you went outside to look up at the night sky? If you haven’t looked up lately, is it because the last time you looked, there was not much to see?

Chances are you only saw a few of the major constellations, a planet or two, and the moon. That’s if you are lucky. Do you remember looking up in the night sky as a kid and seeing a lot more stars than you do today?

If you were a kid in 1970, there were only 200 million people in the U.S. and a lot less light shining up into the night sky. Today, there are 300 million people, a lot more night owls with their lights on, and Las Vegas Casinos. The light pollution is blocking out many of the distant stars we enjoyed in our younger years.

Fortunately, for those of us in San Diego, we can make a short drive over the mountains and into our desert to bring back the memories of yesteryear and share them with our kids.

If you think it is no big deal to be living in San Diego because someone in any other big city can just take the same short drive out to a rural area and see a panoply of stars, think again. Check out this Map of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness for the United States. This map was compiled from military satellite images and shows the striking brightness covering the night sky of nearly every square inch of the eastern United States. (It also makes you realize how desolately populated the western part of the United States is compared to the eastern part of the United States. Despite the large migration of population towards the West, I just looked at some U.S. Census data and found less than 1/3 of the population lives in the western half of the U.S., which includes the two most populous states, California and Texas.)

Friday’s Wall Street Journal covered this issue about the bright night sky from our own Palomar Mountain and Borrego Springs in their article, “It’s All About the Lighting“.

Despite the light intrusions from the Southern California metropolis and the Las Vegas casinos, our desert remains one of the best areas for enjoying the night sky. To keep it this way, the residents of Borrego Springs are going out of their way to preserve the night darkness by instituting night sky friendly policies. They hope to become only the second community in the country to earn recognition as a Dark Sky Community from the International Dark Sky Association.

Let’s send out our best wishes to the residents of Borrego Springs in their attempt to earn this special recognition. For those of us in the urban areas of San Diego, let’s also do our part by limiting the amount of light we have pointing towards the night sky so that we can help reduce the amount of light pollution that reaches out to the desert areas of our county. This is the one case where we can all contribute to proudly reduce the glow of San Diego.

If you want to keep up with what can be seen in the night sky, be sure to read each Thursday’s edition of the Union Tribune. Their Stargazer column in the Quest section will shine a light on what can be seen in the night skies over San Diego.

UPDATE: Learn more about organized stargazing opportunities in San Diego County on my travel web site.

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One Response to “Wall Street Journal Covers the Dark Skies over San Diego”

  1. The Best Places in San Diego says:

    The Palomar Observatory web site offers great advice on how you can help keep the skies dark over San Diego County.

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