You've Never Seen the Milky Way like this..

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 23, 2011 9:19 pm

Simply beautiful. (Expand to full screen)

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

MORE ABOUT: Terje Sorgjerd

Comments (4)

Links to this Post

  1. ‘La Montaña’ « [Px] | April 28, 2011
  1. Sean McCorkle

    That’s a very beautiful film, Sheril, and thanks for posting.

    However, I have seen the Milky Way like that—not in time lapse, but with equal or better clarity, most recently from Canyonlands National Park (much like it appears in the works of Wally Pacholka) and also from other National Parks in the American West (Badlands, Mesa Verde, Theodore Rooseveldt, all hundreds of miles away from sources of light pollution).

    The sky really does look like this when there’s no light pollution. Its supposed to look like this. If you can’t see this on a clear moonless night, then it has been taken from you. Its been taken from most of us, to the extent that many have never seen the Milky Way at all, and are unaware of what they’ve missed.

    Its hard to put into words the damage that has been done by pervasive spread of light pollution, the nearly complete removal of a direct connection to the source of awe and mystery that has driven human civilization for millennia, the source of inspiration for the likes of Gallileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, and so many others, and the science they achieved because of it. It is precious, yet we have deprived ourselves and our children of clear sight of the Galaxy and Universe in which we live, the size and scale of which can not fail to instill a sense of wonder and new perspective in anyone who looks.

    Those of us who still remember what the sky looks like are reduced to driving thousands of miles to get a look. The american east and midwest are lost. The few remote locations where one can actually see the sky that remain in the west are going fast. Add vanishing sky to the already large list of man-made environmental stresses on these parks.

  2. Gaythia

    Teje Srgherd’s photography actually shows several conflicting phenomena, the Milky Way, and a dust storm from the Sahara. And it’s not light free! Even from Spain, the dust is backlit by reflections from Grand Canary Island, (see the details at his links). Like Sean, I too have been, here in the west, to remote places where the stars can be viewed with incredible clarity. But not always, even when the skies are cloud free. Pollution and dust can create a haze that obscure the skies even in places far removed from man made light sources.

    Sean makes a very important point though about what we’ve lost. How can we interest people in the science of astronomy and the origins of the universe when they can’t see the stars in all of their awesome grandeur?

  3. Dark tent

    The best view I ever had of the Milky Way was from above 11,000 feet in the Wind River mountains of Wyoming.

    I’ve also seen it from the Maze district in Canyonlands and many other places off the beaten track in the Western US, Canada and south America (Ecuador and Peru)

    As Sean alludes to above, many people simply don’t know what the sky used to look like in most places, just as many people don’t know what the oceans used to look like (with all the fish and corrals and everything).

    As ecologists like Jeremy Jackson have pointed out, most people aren’t aware of the degradation because the “baseline” is ever-shifting by small amounts over individual lifetimes — each year, there is a little more background light so you can see fewer stars.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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