I stepped outside just before 9:00 pm to let the dogs out and shocked myself with the sight of actual stars, something I haven’t seen in weeks (it seems) with the unrelenting cloud cover, rain and thunderstorms plaguing the Heart of America this month. I grabbed my camera and tripod and setup just east of my mailbox, hoping to capture photographic evidence of the overwhelming light pollution saturating my neighborhood.
Not only does everyone on my court leave every outside light on, they feel compelled to illuminate their driveways, fences, sidewalks, trees, boats, etc., etc. The clouds in the above picture are actually illuminated by the glow from the Lansing Correctional Facility (just a half mile north of my neighborhood).
Turning around 180 degrees on the tripod, and flipping the camera 90 degrees to the horizontal, I snapped a shot of my new ‘bright night light’ recently installed at the corner of Bambi Court and Fawn Valley:
Again, the neighbors to my south, on the south side of Fawn Valley, seem to be in competition with the Bambi Court Extreme Illumination Foundation.
I could barely see the handle of the big dipper, so I thought I’d try experimenting with long exposures using the Pentax K100D. There was no wind where I was standing, even though I could see the thin wispy clouds moving casually from west to east across the backdrop of the Big and Little Dippers. I set the camera to Shutter Priority Mode and selected a six second exposure for a half dozen shots of the northwestern, north and northeastern skies. The most dramatic shot, after autocorrecting with basic photo editing software (and I apologize for the greenness of the resulting photo), follows:
I packed up the camera and tripod and thought about heading to bed. I tried to read more from the Backyard Astronomer’s Guide but gave up around ten o’clock. I got up to let the dogs out one final time and, as I always do, I looked up when I stepped outside. I always look up. The clouds had cleared away more and I could clearly see the Big and Little Dippers from my back patio. I grabbed the tripod and camera again for some more experimental shots using an exposure of fifteen seconds. The following two photos show Ursa Minor and Major in one shot:
And there I will leave you to dream of the stars.
Good night and sleep tight!