“The Hubble Space Telescope has once more turned its attention towards the magnificent Eagle Nebula (Messier 16). This picture shows the northwestern part of the region, well away from the centre, and features some very bright young stars that formed from the same cloud of material. These energetic toddlers are part of an open cluster and emit ultraviolet radiation that causes the surrounding nebula to glow.
The star cluster is very bright and was discovered in the mid-eighteenth century. The nebula, however, is much more elusive and it took almost a further two decades for it to be first noted by Charles Messier in 1764. Although it is commonly known as the Eagle Nebula, its official designation is Messier 16 and the cluster is also named NGC 6611. One spectacular area of the nebula (outside the field of view) has been nicknamed “The Pillars of Creation” ever since the Hubble Space Telescope captured an iconic image of dramatic pillars of star-forming gas and dust.
The cluster and nebula are fascinating targets for small and medium-sized telescopes, particularly from a dark site free from light pollution. Messier 16 can be found within the constellation of Serpens Cauda (the Tail of the Serpent), which is sandwiched between Aquila, Sagittarius, and Ophiuchus in the heart of one of the brightest parts of the Milky Way. Small telescopes with low power are useful for observing large, but faint, swathes of the nebula, whereas 30 cm telescopes and larger may reveal the dark pillars under good conditions. But a space telescope in orbit around the Earth, like Hubble — which boasts a 2.4-metre diameter mirror and state-of-the-art instruments — is required for an image as spectacular as this one.
This picture was created from images taken with the Wide Field Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. Images through a near-infrared filter (F775W) are coloured red and images through a blue filter (F475W) are blue. The exposures times were one hour and 54 minutes respectively and the field of view is about 3.3 arcminutes across.”
That one’s a real beauty.
Imagine, being able to see such an astronomical wonder from the comfort of your own home. In remaining areas around the world, such an activity is a leisurely one, where one can simply look outside and see such cosmic comfort. Such a reality existed before the proliferation of streetlights across the globe. That in itself is not a bad thing, although the principles guiding the direction of the light warrant scrutiny. Why? The lack of proper shielding creates light pollution. An otherwise preventable form of pollution, light pollution continues to pollute our night skies around the globe. We have the technology and the knowledge to eradicate it, but yet we continue to lollygag around the issue:
Really, how important is light pollution?
Do we lack the finances to support such a retrofit?
What about our safety?
Here’s the skinny: light pollution is important. It’s detrimental to humans and animals alike, causing negative cognitive, diet and behavioral changes. Retrofitting existing lights posses a large initial cost, although over time it would not only pay for itself but actually pay you. Studies have shown that more light is not corollary to a reduction in crime. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and actually encourages crime. Since proper shielding concentrates and directs the light downward, there’s no need for additional light fixtures. Less light fixtures equals less electricity, which equals more savings.
So, there’s really no excuse as to why we haven’t done anything about light pollution. It’s an easy fix, compared to other global environmental problems. Let’s nip it in the butt and
Let there be night!