"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Last look at the Milky Way, last book of the year

Can you see the Milky Way? Probably not, anymore.
Light pollution, where night fades from our lives, is increasing around the world faster than population growth.
So I learned reading my 31st book this year, a Christmas present from sons Vance and Travis Clark, about our beloved Glacier National Park in northern Montana.
Glacier National Park, After Dark, by John Ashley, records a 30-year, 100-night project of this photographer, writer, naturalist, biologist and more.
Yes, he's been up all night shooting stars and planets and more, sometimes in -21 degree weather, in one of the last "dark places" on the planet.
He mixes science, astronomy, biology, history and Native American traditional stories and names with his fantastic photography. A deep bibliography, astronomy schedules through 2024, tips on night photography, and a plea to curb light pollution fill out this wonder of research and meticulous footnotes.
I can remember seeing the Milky Way when I was growing up. Now you have to be in rural areas, and sometimes then with binoculars. In darker areas, the stars knock your eyes out. 
It's no accident that astronomy clubs, like the one in Oklahoma City, go to the end of the Oklahoma Panhandle once a year to view the stars. I can remember watching them wheel overhead when camped out at Chaco Canyon. 
Light pollution is not just about seeing stars--it affects the lives and life rhythms of all live on this planet. 
Ashley's photography calls me back, to go again to Glacier, and to be able to see the stars, before they, like the glaciers, are gone.
A quote from iconic Doug Peacock (if you don't know who Doug Peacock is, I'm sorry) on the back cover brings it home.
Here's a snippet: "Ashley shows us how we are losing the heavens that we humans have watched and have informed our kind for millennia; artificial light pollution is erasing the night sky. And, on our radically changing planet, we will need that stellar anchor."

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