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Screengrab via Lost In Light II/Sriram Mutali

How much does light pollution hurt your stargazing? This timelapse video tells the tale

The nighttime sky gets more and more beautiful.


Chris Tognotti

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 12, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 12:30 am CDT

As anyone who’s ever tried to do a little stargazing in the middle of a major city knows, light pollution can make it a tough endeavor. Sure, stars are beautiful, and someone who knows the layout of the constellations can usually pick out a few of the big, commonly recognized ones—Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, the Big Dipper, and the like. But there’s no denying that a lot of visibility is lost the more lights are shining in one’s immediate vicinity, which is why the country life is so much more conducive to beautiful nighttime skyscapes.

Few constellations are as recognizable and iconic as Orion the Hunter, with his bright, starry belt shining down from above and putting everything else into perspective. But the sight of Orion is undeniably less eye-catching and beautiful when seen from within the confines of a big city, as an astronomy-oriented filmmaker named Sriram Murali has just beautifully displayed for all to see.

The video is titled “Lost in Light II,” and it’s actually the second in this light pollution-centric timelapse series. Showing the skies above the city of San Francisco as a baseline, where high levels of light pollution render so many of the stars in the sky basically unviewable, Murali then shows the same patch of sky, including Orion, in different locations with increasingly better visibility. The result is that the extent of what light pollution deprives is laid very bare, and it’s more than a little breathtaking.

By the time the timelapse footage segues from Foster City—with a light pollution rating of 6—to the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve with a light pollution rating of 5, the stunning difference in the sharpness and visibility of the night sky’s countless stars starts to become apparent. By the time Murali gets around to Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, with a light pollution rating of 2, what’s visible is an absolutely beautiful, stunning nightscape. A celestial feast for the senses.

Be warned, while the video is incredibly cool, it could also plant some wanderlust into anyone who lives too close to the bright lights to see such a gorgeous night sky. Basically, any residents of San Francisco or Los Angeles or New York—or any of the big cities that drench the night sky in artificial light—should be aware that they may want to plan a trip after watching it. 

Murali’s full website also includes his nighttime sky photography, all of which is incredibly evocative and beautiful, as well as the first iteration of “Lost In Light,” and another video called “Into The Night.”

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*First Published: Feb 12, 2017, 1:32 pm CST