The closest darkest place

World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness New York

It's that gray spot floating the pool of blue in the Adirondacks.

After reading this interview with Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, we were curious the closest, darkest place. We'll get to that in a second. First, a clip from the interview:

There's a statistic that I quote, which is that eight of every ten kids born in the United States today will never experience a sky dark enough to see the Milky Way. The Milky Way becomes visible at 3 or 4 on the Bortle scale. That's not even down to a 1. One is pretty stringent. I've been in some really dark places that might not have qualified as a 1, just because there was a glow of a city way off in the distance, on the horizon. You can't have any signs of artificial light to qualify as a Bortle Class 1.
A Bortle Class 1 is so dark that it's bright. That's the great thing--the darker it gets, if it's clear, the brighter the night is. That's something we never see either, because it's so artificially bright in all the places we live. We never see the natural light of the night sky.

As Bogard mentions in that clip, there's a scale for night sky brightness, the Bortle scale. Nowhere east of the Mississippi qualifies for the very darkest category.

But we're not too far from a few spots that qualify as pretty darn dark (a scientific term). According to maps created by The World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness based on satellite data, there's a patch in the middle of the Adirondacks that qualifies for the second-darkest category on the scale used by the atlas -- here's a zoomable map. Specifically, the patch is just west of Blue Mountain Lake, around Raquette Lake. It's about 135 miles from Albany.

It's not surprising the Adirondacks have a spot like this -- it's one of the least-lit places in the eastern United States.

[Venue via Kottke]

image: The World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness

Comments

I find this very interesting. And I say that because I used to be able to enjoy the Big Dipper in all its glory right outside the front door of my house on the western edge of the city of Albany. Expansion at UAlbany has brightened the sky considerably in the last two years leaving me with a much dimmer Dipper. It's something my husband can't appreciate. Thanks, AOA, for backing me up here!

I am curious where the closest place to see the Milky Way would be. I would love to show it to my kids.

Thankfully only a few miles from Albany we can see quite a bit even with streetlights out front.

To the first commenter, there are ways to encourage especially excessive light polluters to use more efficient lighting. Many types of lighting that prevent light pollution are actually more efficient since they direct the light down, where it is more useful and less energy is used to uselessly light up the sky.

The Milky Way was clearly visible at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, NY this summer. It was a crystal clear night and very cold. These photos are enhanced and stitched, but give a good impression of what you saw in person - http://jackidickert.zenfolio.com/p837950004

I'm guessing you could also see it one of the night watches at Landis Arboretum put on bu the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers.
http://www.dudleyobservatory.org/AAAA/Schedule.html

Dave,

I was often able to just make out the Milky Way in my back yard in Altamont.

I camp in Newcomb every summer and the stars over Lake Harris are amazing - the milky way is clearly visible if there's few clouds and no moon. It's amazing.

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