Light Pollution Over Southern Ontario

June 11, 2008


Referred by: Rick Stankiewicz
Summary author: Rick Stankiewicz

Light pollution can take many forms, and if you’re able to recognize it for what it is, it can show up in the most unusual places. One such case occurred when I was on an evening business flight from Toronto to Thunder Bay, Ontario, at approximately 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, on January 15th, 2008. I was fortunate enough to have a window seat as the plane cruised along at about 24,000 feet (7,315 m). I looked out the window to see the cloud deck several thousand feet below, but it appeared odd that rather than seeing just a “blank slate” of clouds, which I would have expected on such a late flight, I noticed orange glowing “patches” within the clouds. It was all too obvious what I was observing. The gauzy patches were clear indicators of light pollution from the various communities across southwestern Ontario. This misdirected light was energetic enough to penetrate the thin veil of clouds, and I was thus able to detect the outline of every town and city. In essence, without actually being able to see the cities, I could tell exactly where they were. I counted dozens of these patches within just a few minutes. There’s no denying it; these beacons of light, which can be seen almost anywhere across the world, are signposts for wasted energy and resources.

Photo details: Canon EOS 400D; Sigma 17-70 mm zoom at 28 mm; ISO 1600; f/3.5; 6 seconds.