Science

This Is How New York City’s Sky Will Look Like Without All The Pollution

This Is How New York City's Sky Will Look Like Without All The Pollution
Image source: Vimeo Video Screenshot

In an increasingly urbanized world, more and more people never get to see the wonder of a truly dark sky and the wealth of stars that can be seen without all the pollution. The Skyglow Project is dedicated to bringing to light what we are missing, framed against famous landmarks. Instead of providing a sped-up version of how the sky looks from the Grand Canyon or another remote location, the latest offering gives us a glimpse of what the sky above New York City could be like.

Even more than SkyGlow’s previous efforts, Skyglow New York City isn’t a literal representation of something one could ever see. For dramatic effect, the videos combine images of illuminated Earthly objects with dark skies in ways we can never naturally see simultaneously. The power of the long exposure photography also brings out many things our naked eye cannot see.

The New York City video, like its LA predecessor, goes even further, with stars framed by buildings lit up with the very neon advertising that blinds our eyes to the sky. Yet there is a deeper truth to these videos. The stars were filmed not near New York, but at truly dark sky sites like Death Valley and the Grand Canyon. The lights of one of the world’s most familiar cities make the vision seem more reachable, rather than something that can only be seen from strange parts of the world that are totally alien to us (as most past components in the series have been).

These videos are a feast for the eyes, but there is an important point to them. The reason we can’t see many stars from cities is because of a mixture of the air pollution from cars/factories and the “light pollution” from lighting reflecting off particles in the sky.

Air pollution causes the deaths of millions of people each year. Light pollution may seem much less serious, but it represents wasted light, and therefore unnecessary energy production. When the electricity that powers our lights comes from coal and gas, it threatens to take from us something much more precious than even our view of the stars. The videos serve as a reminder that much of the destruction of the Earth’s biosphere is taking place to produce by-products, not even the things we truly want.