From streetlights to spotlights, headlights to porch lights, there’s no denying the developed world’s obsession with illumination. But as ever more lights turn on, the ability to see the night sky gets turned off—and this video shows what you might be missing.
The video is the handiwork of Harun Mehmedinovic and Gavin Heffernan, a photographer and filmmaker who took 3 million pictures and traveled 150,000 miles for the sake of darker skies. Their goal: capture the look and feel of North America’s disappearing night skies, one starry night at a time.
Their latest short film Poli’ahu, was made at the Mauna Kea Observatories on Hawaii’s Big Island. This cluster of telescopes is situated nearly 14,000 feet above sea level on the dormant volcano, attracting astronomers from around the world to take part in some of the world’s best stargazing.
Over the years, the Big Island has enacted light ordinances to protect Mauna Kea’s night sky, but growing populations and increasing light sources still threaten the skies at Mauna Kea and other astronomical observatories.
April 22 through 28 has been designated International Dark Sky Week by groups that advocate for less light pollution and darker skies. Heffernan and Mehmedinovic are releasing a coffee table book, Skyglow, just in time for the week. They were able to crowdsource over $70,000 in Kickstarter funds for the awareness-raising project, which brought them all over North America in search of stunning skies.
Will their gorgeous photos and videos be enough to halt the merciless march of light that’s taking over night skies? Probably not. But their work shows what’s lost when the lights turn on—and what could be gained in a world with darker, deeper skies.