A modest meteor shower is at its best the next couple of nights. At its peak, the Eta Aquarid shower might produce a couple of dozen meteors per hour. But the Moon is almost full now, so it’s in the sky until shortly before dawn. Its light will wash out all but a few of the “shooting stars.”
The moonlight demonstrates the importance of dark skies for viewing the subtleties of the night sky. Extra light knocks out our view not only of faint meteors, but of the Milky Way, the northern lights, and many other faint but beautiful sights.
We can’t do much about the bright Moon. But we can do something about artificial lights — the fixtures that light our streets, buildings, and homes.
Fixtures that shine much of their light into the sky aren’t very efficient. They don’t do a good job of lighting the ground, which is what most of them are supposed to do. And since they’re wasting a lot of their light, they’re also wasting energy. What’s more, the light in the sky can distract migrating birds, sea turtles, and other creatures. It can even create health problems for people.
Some cities and counties have banned inefficient outdoor lights. But individuals can help, too. Make sure that any outdoor lights are shining down, not up, and that they’re the right color — blue light is worse than warmer colors.
That can help keep the skies dark, enhancing the view of meteor showers and other wonders — at least when the Moon is out of sight.
Script by Damond Benningfield