|Light Pollution Map of Lower Manhattan, marked by two red pins, and environs. Blue to purple areas are the least light polluted, yellow to red the most.|
While we were looking the other way, the dazzle of starry skies that we thought would always be there has been dimmed by a hazy scrim: when encountered, we feel as if a disease has overtaken our eyes. But the haze is accumulated wasted light from each of our trillions of outdoor lights – private and public – that are poorly designed and, in many instances, too bright for the purpose. The result is that the light scatters around and up to the sky, known as “light trespass” and “light pollution.” Excessive light is also wasted light and it is not only a wasted resource. While quick to light up our world, we have not only been oblivious to polluting our skies, but are discovering that light pollution is having deleterious affects on human health and the health of our environment. See https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/06/27/ama-issues-warning-about-energy-efficient-led-streetlights/
Each of us can act to reverse this blight by being vigilant about lighting decisions in our communities and exercising discretion when making lighting choices and turning on the switch. Consider covering windows with shades, blinds or curtains at night. Join in the work of the International Dark Sky Association https://www.darksky.org.
The Amateur Astronomers Association of New York https://www.aaa.org/ is committed to promoting awareness of the night sky through year around programs, including the gift of stargazing beginning in April.
“Far from letting life under some of the world’s most light-polluted skies deter us from actively viewing the night sky, we in the AAA are dedicated to not only observing the heavens ourselves but also introducing the public to the wonders of astronomy. In cooperation with the New York City Department of Parks, the United States National Park Service, and other organizations, the Amateur Astronomers Association holds observing sessions at several locations in and around New York City.”
In early February, look for 2 planets in the west after sunset. You can’t miss Venus. It’s dazzlingly bright. For the first 2 weeks of February, use Venus to find Mercury near the sunset point on the horizon shortly after sunset. Binoculars will help.
Meanwhile, enjoy planet Venus’ star-like dazzle rather high above the southwest horizon in evening twilight until she sets in the west shortly after 8pm.