How Does Light Pollution Affect Views Through My Telescope?

How much light pollution affects our view through telescopes? Is it possible to see stars without light pollution?

Astronomy has always fascinated us. We love learning about the universe and observing the night sky. Too much light pollution from cities and towns can ruin your viewing experience.

How Does Light Pollution Affect Views Through My Telescope

Have you wondered how exactly light pollution interrupts your viewing experience? 

What Is Light Pollution? 

Light pollution is a term used to describe artificial light that shines in the night sky. It’s anything other than natural light, such as street lights or car headlights. This includes any kind of light source, including:

  • Electric lights
  • Fluorescent lights
  • Harsh lighting
  • Neon signs
  • Solar panels
  • Streetlights
  • Other

The more light pollution there is, the less we are able to see. In fact, some people say that if all the light pollution were removed from the night sky, we would be able to see millions of stars!

Why Does Light Pollution Affect Our Viewing Experience Through Telescopes? 

The most obvious reason why light pollution affects our view of the night sky is that it reduces the amount of starlight available for us to observe.

If we’re looking at something like Jupiter, which is very bright, then we need lots of starlight to make it visible. But when we look up at the night sky, we see the light reflected off the Earth – not the actual light emitted by the stars themselves.

So the more light pollution there is around, the fewer stars we’ll actually be able to see.

Another reason why light pollution affects your view through a telescope is that it changes the color of what you’re looking at. When light passes through the air, it gets scattered due to its molecules moving away from each other.

This scattering makes colors appear slightly different than they really are. For example, white light will scatter differently depending on whether it’s passing through water or air.

And this effect is even greater with artificial light sources.

What Is The Bortle Scale? 

To quantify the impact of light pollution on our view of the night skies, astronomers have developed a scale called the Bortle Scale.

It ranks the level of light pollution based on how much light is shining down on an area of the night sky.

The higher the ranking, the worse the light pollution.

There are three levels of light pollution on the Bortle Scale:

1) 0 (no light pollution): This means that the night sky looks completely dark. There aren’t any light sources anywhere near where you are.

2) 1+: This means that the night is lit, but there isn’t enough light pollution to significantly reduce visibility. You might still be able to spot some faint stars.

3) 2+: This means that there is significant light pollution, even though you can still see some stars, they are dimmer and harder to spot than normal.

Can I Find Out The Level Of Light Pollution In My Area? 

If you want to know the level of light pollution in your local area, you can use the free online tool provided by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). All you need to do is enter your location into the search box on their website.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll get a map showing the level of light pollution around you.

You can also find out about the nearest IDA Dark Sky Park. These areas are specially protected so that they remain dark enough to allow us to see as many stars as possible. They’re usually located far away from cities and towns.

How To Deal With Light Pollution Affecting Your Telescope 

How Does Light Pollution Affect Views Through My Telescope

If you live in a place where light pollution affects your view of the night sky, you may be wondering what you can do about it.

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with light pollution without giving up astronomy altogether!

One way to deal with light pollution is to simply turn off all unnecessary lights inside your house (if you’re viewing through a window).

That includes things like overhead lighting, table lamps, desk lamps, etc.

This will help prevent stray light from entering your viewing angles and making it brighter than it should be.

If you’re outside, though, it can be harder to limit the impacts of light pollution on your telescope. However, there are still a few things you can do. One thing you can try is to move your telescope farther away from any streetlights.

If you don’t have access to a dedicated observatory site, then you could set up your telescope in the backyard or somewhere else that’s not directly exposed to light pollution.

Another option is to invest in a filter for your telescope. Filters work by blocking specific wavelengths of light from reaching your eyepiece.

By doing this, you can make sure that the light coming through the lens is more consistent.

This makes it easier to see objects in the sky because there won’t be any distracting light shining down on them.

What Are Some Other Ways To Reduce Light Pollution? 

While filters are one way to reduce light pollution, there are other options too. For example, if you’re using an equatorial mount, you can buy a shade for your scope.

These shades come in various shapes and sizes, but most of them are designed to block direct sunlight. This helps keep the temperature down during the day, which reduces the amount of heat being reflected back towards your telescope.

There are also a number of apps available that can help you reduce light pollution when you’re observing at night. One such app is called “Sky Quality Meter.”

It works by measuring the brightness of the sky around you and comparing it against a database of reference sites.

From there, it provides information about how bright the sky is at different locations. You can even compare the data against other people who are using the same app.

If you have a spare tarp to hand, why not try setting yourself up in a quiet corner of your yard, and use the tarp for extra shading?

This can help reduce the glare of those annoying city lights and keep your viewing angles as optimal as possible. 

If you live in a big city, light pollution will always be your worst enemy. If you want the best viewing experience possible, we recommend leaving the city and finding a spot in your nearest rural area.

You’ll see a dramatic and almost instant improvement in the quality of your viewing! 

Final Thoughts 

Light pollution isn’t just something that affects amateur astronomers. It has a huge impact on everyone living near cities and towns.

While light pollution doesn’t necessarily ruin your view of the stars, it certainly makes it much harder to enjoy what they offer.

So, if you want to get the very best out of your stargazing experiences, we strongly suggest looking into ways to minimize its effects.

Thankfully, these aren’t always complex or expensive. Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking yourself off to a darker and more rural area and leaving the city behind for a few hours. Try it – you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it makes! 

Gordon Watts