Dark skies make for great listening

Have you ever considered the light pollution in your neighborhood?

One of the many reasons we love living in Conway is our proximity to one of the darker sections of night sky on the East Coast, without being too remote from civilization.

Go to the following website and hover over the United States, or type in your address: www.darksitefinder.com. 

On the map above, Conway is located directly above the ‘M’ in Massachusetts, where the dark yellow color band meets the part of the lime-green swath that reaches out like an appendage. If you zoom over Western Massachusetts, where we live, you can see how that band of lime-green is a section of dark skies stretching down from Vermont, far northern New York state, and Canada.  

Conway is so dark at night that light from the stars is enough to see, without the moon. Yet, we are less than a 30-minute drive from large towns with excellent restaurants, boutiques, universities, and cultural offerings, 2 hours by car from Boston, and 3 hours to New York, the biggest city in the U.S.

Looking at this map, you can identify all the major cities just from their light pollution, radiating out from the intensity of their white-hot cores. Starting clockwise with Montreal at midnight, we can see Boston at 3:30, New York City at 6, and Toronto at 9:30. They’re surrounded by pulsating rings of pinks and reds, steadily cooling out to the oranges and yellows of their suburbs. It’s akin to looking at a cross-cut of planet earth’s molten core in a middle school science class.

Conversely, vast tracts of northern and western Maine are completely dark, as the middle of the ocean – yet if you zoom in, you’ll see all that gray speckled and salted with the candle flames of small and large towns burning orange and red in the night.

Things get even more interesting when you consider where most Americans live. Starting in Washington, D.C. and its suburbs, you can draw a continuous line of light all the way up to Portland, Maine. That’s hundreds of miles where no native dark sky exists!

What goes along with dark skies? Lots of good things, like fresh air, beautiful natural landscapes, and quiet. Along with very little light pollution, there’s no noise pollution. No major freeways going by at 3 a.m. like unholy waterfalls of internal combustion engines, tires, and concrete. No airports, planes, and runways. 

The only real noise pollution might be from our hound dog, with her deep, sonorous bawl, but most of our neighbors don’t seem to mind!

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