Trees and Planets and Light Pollution

August 20th, 2021, 12:05 a.m. local time

I took this picture with my iPhone quickly as I was packing up my telescope on Jupiter’s opposition night (more on this in a future post).  This image is largely unremarkable but I noticed in hindsight it reveals much of my stargazing circumstance.

  • In my blog posts I frequently mention the trees blocking my views to the South.  Here you see the westernmost tall cottonwoods of that line.
  • Jupiter, Saturn (faint), and the Moon appear to be in elliptic line, but they are really not.  Each has its own elliptic, notably Jupiter’s is higher that Saturn’s from this vantage.  Jupiter clears the trees so I can take pictures much earlier than Saturn, which has to exit the tree line fully for telescope views.
  • You can see a distant neighbor’s absurd light pollution bubble.  I have planted my own small trees, not shown here, that do a respectable job blocking the light from my deck.  It’s just the angle of my iPhone shot that happened to catch what I now largely ignore.
  • See that house side at the bottom that looks like it is painted two colors?  The light side is actually streetlight reflection, which has gotten worse in the past year as the traditional bulbs have been replaced by grated high-powered LEDs.

The moral of this story is that trees are a blessing and a curse for stargazing.  While they obscure parts of the sky, they also defend against light pollution.  Trees are in sum a great net benefit for observing the night sky.

Pictures taken with my iPhone and minorly post-processed in PaintShop Pro.



I write frequently about astrophotography, technology advice, and my other interests like science fiction. I have nearly 30 years of experience in computer programming, information technology, and project management.

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