In the dead of the night, around 2 am or so, the bus came to an halt and i woke up to realize that it might have stopped to help some passengers attend nature call. Sensing that this was an unusual route & not knowing where it would stop next, i quickly got out of the bus to seize the opportunity.
Coming out into the chill night i realized that we must be in the middle of the ghats as i was greeted by the dense forest around and the relentless chatter of night life in the wilderness. As i was standing there, going through the motions, i was awestruck by a rather unusual sight . A crystal clear nightsky!!, accentuated by blinding darkness around revealed an amazing tapestry of stars & heavenly bodies across the horizon just above the canopy of thick dark trees.
What was unusual was the clarity of the night sky, highlighted by pitch dark firmament that i could see the reddish pink tinge of the nearby planet & the whitest white glow of distant stars & constellations. This fleeting experience became a vivid memory because of the circumstances in which i saw the natural wonder. Now a days it is a rare experience for a city slicker like me to just step out to my top floor terrace & get a clear view of the sky in Bangalore on any given night, leave alone seeing the stars. Bangalore like countless other cities around the world, is so polluted with smoke & dust that all you can is view is a thinly placid sky filled with smog scattering the bright glare of the cityscape below.
The amount of light pollution that any city generates can be gauged from a simple observation from a window seat of an aircraft that is about to land in clear dark night. All you can see from several thousand feet up in sky is a swathe of bright yellow & white lights not to mention neon colours interspersed here & there. In fact coming from a late evening Delhi flight recently, an hour or so into the flight, I just kept peering out of a window seat to see whether I could catch a glimpse of a perfectly dark landscape on the ground. Small patches of light kept appearing on the ground almost endlessly & my patience ran out after some time .
Satellites images of the world captured in the dark, as recent studies show, reveal that the artificial light emanating from cities around the world is 3 times more now than it was in the 1970s. Studies by Royal astronomical society have also revealed that the stars that Humanity is seeing in a clear dark night sky is steadily decreasing with time. Observatories around the world, despite their high resolution telescopes are unable to pinpoint fixed & moving heavenly bodies for astronomical calculations due to this poor visibility. Prompting scientists to put the Hubble telescope into space. And it has not disappointed, seeing into the far reaches of the universe like never seen before.
One of my most vivid childhood memories has been of my mother feeding me with the lullaby & tales of a bright moon (chandamama) & dangling stars under the clear night sky of a far away town in North Karnataka where she was a Govt Medical officer. Whether this simple yet extra ordinarily wonderful natural experience can be had by my son in Bangalore? Nah, may not.