Stars... Think about all the poems, songs, and sayings you know about stars: Star light, star bright... Twinkle, twinkle little star... Oh my stars! Hollywood stars...
Now think about the sky and the real stars above you. How many can you see? How many do you know?
If you are like me, you know more songs about stars than you know actual heavenly stars. One of the consequences of our modern life is we lost our connection to the sky. Much like we worry about this generation of children growing up indoors, plugged in to the internet and the games, away from the great outdoors, we should be equally worried about all current generations knowing little and appreciating less about the very skies above us.
Despite what we may believe, the stars are important. Stars guided navigators for hundreds of years as they sailed the oceans blue. On land the Milky Way and constellations featured prominently in mythology. Harriett Tubman used the North Star to keep her on the path to freedom.
Yet today, with all our artificial lighting, we cannot even see the heavens above us at night. And when we wish upon a falling star, how can we be sure it is a falling star and not an airplane flying overhead?
The good news is at least one organization, International Dark-Sky Association is working to bring the night sky back to urban areas. IDA conducts research and education projects in to the effects of light stimulation on our circadian rhythm, and simple ways we can reduce "light pollution" in the nighttime sky. This organization lists the small but growing number of communities, parks, and reserves which have joined the International Dark Sky Places. These special spaces offer spectacular nighttime views not otherwise available.
Another organization, Earth and Sky truly focuses both on Earth and Sky. With beautiful photography, clear drawings, and concise writing, Earth and Sky is a great resource for experienced and novice stargazers. This website features many illustrations of constellations, and up-to-date information on astonomical events such as meteor showers and solstices.
I hope you will take a few minutes to visit these websites. They offer not only information, but points to ponder. And go outside one evening and look for a place dark enough to star gaze. I know I love being out in rural areas where I can see the Milky Way... it would be nice to be able to stay home and see it right outside my door. Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight... wish I may, wish I might...