Stars No More

There was a time when every human being without impaired eyesight could look up on a cloudless moonless night and see thousands of stars, usually one or more brilliant planets, an occasional comet, sometimes a meteor, and the Milky Way stretching halfway across the sky. Years ago, on summer nights, I could see a faint fuzzy patch high up, the Andromeda Galaxy, our galaxy’s neighbor, 12 trillion trillion miles or so away.

These days, because of light pollution in more than sparsely populated areas, only a small and dwindling percentage of humans ever witness such a sight. Besides the numerous human-launched satellites presently passing overhead, we face the prospect of thousands more, which because of their low-level orbits will outnumber visible stars at night even in areas with minimal pollution. One of the most magnificent spectacles humans ever beheld, once universally available, will be lost to all.