Skip to main content

The night sky, as seen from areas with and without light pollution

Lost in Light
What you can see when you look up at night varies drastically depending on your location. And if you happen to live in a dense urban area, you might not see any stars at all. This is the result of light pollution, the effect of artificial light spilling into the environment and blocking out the natural light of the night sky.

In the above video, photographer Siram Murali documented different levels of light pollution across California (along with one location in Oregon), revealing how modern civilization has dramatically changed what we can see at night.

Murali picked the locations in the video based on their Bortle scale ranking, which classifies night sky visibility from level one (excellent) to level nine (inner-city sky). The first shot shows the view from San Jose, with a level eight ranking, and works up through locations at each level, eventually culminating with an epic view from Death Valley, a level one. Seeing the progression of visibility from one site to the next makes the images of a clear night sky all the more impressive.

What’s also striking is how far light pollution reaches. Even the remote locations of Lassen and Crater Lake national parks rank a two and a three, respectively. This is a reminder that some 80 percent of the world’s population can’t see the Milky Way, and a whopping 99 percent of U.S. and European Union residents experience some amount of light pollution.

If there is a positive to take away from Murali’s work, however, it’s that a clear view of the night sky is still accessible. While we don’t all have a Death Valley in our home states, if you can’t look up from your back porch and see the stars, a short drive can at least bring you to a place with less light pollution.

It’s perhaps a bit ironic that by stepping out of the light, we can actually see more.

Editors' Recommendations

Daven Mathies
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Daven is a contributing writer to the photography section. He has been with Digital Trends since 2016 and has been writing…
The LaMetric Sky gives artistic meaning to smart lighting
lametric sky smart lighting based chinese puzzles

With the introduction of the Aurora Nanoleaf and Lifx Tile, smart lighting changed from a modern convenience to modern art--and today LaMetric takes that evolution one step further with the introduction of the LaMetric Sky, a modular smart light system that can be functional, artistic, and meaningful all at once.

The LaMetric Sky starter pack is made up of four right triangles, each with 32 independent color zones. The light panels mount to the wall using double-sided tape, so there's no need to drill holes or damage the walls in any way. The panels can be assembled corner to corner, side to side, and half to half to create almost any shape imaginable. The LaMetric Sky includes mounting instructions to help users arrange their lights in any way they want. A few of the shapes the company suggests include a fish, a cat, a diamond, and a crown.

Read more
ISS private astronaut shares stunning Earth photos
Earth as seen from the International Space Station.

Earth as seen from the International Space Station. Marcus Wandt/Axiom Space/NASA

After offering some fresh perspectives of the inside of the International Space Station (ISS), private astronaut Marcus Wandt pointed his camera the other way and captured some stunning images of Earth.

Read more
Hurry! This DJI drone just had its price slashed to $300
The DJI Mini 2 SE drone in flight.

Getting a dependable drone made by arguably the most popular brand in the industry doesn't have to set you back hundreds of dollars, as there's an option to shop Best Buy's offer for the DJI Mini 2 SE. From the drone's already relatively affordable sticker price of $340, it's down to an even cheaper $300 following a $40 discount. We're not sure how much time is remaining on this bargain because DJI's products almost always get sold out quickly whenever they appear in drone deals, so you better hurry with your purchase if you're interested.

Why you should buy the DJI Mini 2 SE
The DJI Mini 2 SE, which was released in February 2023, is a less expensive variant of the DJI Mini 2, which was rolled out in November 2020. The two drones are very similar, but the huge gap in their prices is due to a downgrade in the camera. From the DJI Mini 2's capability to record 4K video at 30 frames per second, the DJI Mini 2 SE is only capable of taking 2K video at 40 frames per second. If 2K quality is more than enough for you, then the DJI Mini 2 SE is recommended because it's a much cheaper drone with most of the same features.

Read more