Matt Dieterich Photography | Clear skies at Mount Rainier National Park’s astronomy program

Not all night skies are created equal. Location on earth where you are observing from plays a huge part in making or breaking your viewing experience. But what does location have to do with the night sky? When we dig deeper, we find that night sky viewing location is affected by three main factors including distance from large cities, amount of water in the air, and elevation. Have you ever noticed one of these factors before?You might have noticed that large cities are set aglow by lights at night, which turns the night sky into an orange orb drowning out fragile star light. This unfortunately, yet reversible downside of cities is known as “light pollution”. The next time you are downtown on a cloudless night, look up and see how many stars you can count…5? 20? 30? Depending on the city brightness you may only be able see 20 stars, if not fewer. On the contrary, drive out into the country and you will be overwhelmed with stars on a moonless night. The lack of bright city lights out in the country can make for one memorable night of watching or photographing the night sky. Dark skies out in the country are similar to what our ancestors experienced, thousands of stars strewn across the sky with our Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. For more information on light pollution please visit the International Dark Sky website at http://www.darksky.orgWhile light pollution is the most visible factor changing our view of the night sky based on location, the amount of water vapor present in the atmosphere plays a vital role in determining how “clear” objects in the sky appear. Water vapor in the atmosphere is commonly called “transparency” by astronomers. High water vapor content reduces transparency and low water vapor increases transparency, which is what we want! Imagine swimming in a pool and going under the water, then looking back out through the water

Source: Matt Dieterich Photography | Clear skies at Mount Rainier National Park’s astronomy program

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