John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Lost in Light gradually transports you from light-blighted cities to sanctuaries for star-gazing.
It’s thought that, thanks to light pollution, one-third of the world’s population can’t see the Milky Way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t hunt stars near urban centers, as this short film documents with excellent, naturally blazing nocturnal skies.
Made by Sriram Murali, Lost in Light begins under the soupy, human-lit heavens of Silicon Valley and progressively moves to less-and-less inhabited areas of California (plus Crater Lake in Oregon). Murali’s goal was to “shoot at every level of light pollution,” he writes, a challenge he accomplished using resources like Dark Site Finder. Here’s more from his rather-wistful project description:
Imagine if we lived under skies full of stars. That reminder we are a tiny part of this cosmos, the awe and a special connection with this remarkable world would make us much better beings—more thoughtful, inquisitive, empathetic, kind and caring. Imagine kids growing up passionate about astronomy looking for answers and how advanced humankind would be, how connected and caring we’d feel with one another, how noble and adventurous we’d be. How compassionate with fellow species on Earth and how one with Nature we’d feel.
Even in places with a medium level of light pollution—like Monte Bello Preserve, about an hour’s drive southeast of San Francisco—the star-shows can profound. Mark them down for the next time you want to catch a meteor shower; just remember to bring a warm blanket and watch out for mountain lions.