Sometimes on warm, clear, moonless nights I would gaze up at the stars while lying in our front yard; wondering what was that hazy stripe which looked like a far off cloud across the roof of the sky. At nine I did not yet know that I was peering nearly along our galactic plane. Stars were easily visible all across the night sky, so it was easy to find constellations.
Fifty years later I no longer lie in our front yard, no matter how beautiful and warm the night, but I sometime take our dogs for a late night walk, and will look up to see . . . not much. It is easy to see Ursa Major’s dipper pointing toward Polaris at Ursa Minor’s tail, but no longer are the minor dipper’s fainter stars visible. Tiny Pleiades ever more faintly glides along a winter’s night sky, requiring a determined search when once it was easily seen. Large swatches of the sky’s canopy appear devoid of stars.
Most Americans today are unaware they’ve been star-robbed of the Milky Way’s resplendent nighttime celestial light show by man-made illumination of parking lots, buildings, and city streets . Long ago I would look up and feel small, yet somehow integral with the infinite stretching out before me. No longer does the night’s meditative vastness display itself. It looks lonely and empty up there, and I miss it.