The constellation Orion, imaged at left from dark skies, and at right from the teeming metropolis of Orem, UT at the heart of the Utah County megalopolis comprising about half a million people. (Note: The preceding is sarcasm. Orem, UT is hardly a large city. This is intended to highlight the fact that light pollution is a problem everywhere, not just in cities with tens of millions of inhabitants.)
The Illuminati Project seeks photos that showcase “the beauty of light pollution”, presumably so we’ll have a record after the problem goes away?
There’s no beauty in light pollution. Unnecessary, excessive, and misdirected light wastes energy, wastes money, generates air pollution, and is actually detrimental to safety and security since the glare harms dark adaptation and effectively makes shadows deeper. And last but not least, light pollution destroys the beauty of the night sky that has inspired mankind for millennia.
Orion in a light-polluted sky
Just for grins, I decided to see what kind of Orion photo I could capture from my light-polluted backyard (visible magnitude ~4.5, maybe 5 on a really good night; this photo was taken under better-than-average conditions).
Here’s the result. It’s a stack totaling 30+ minutes (I used a variety of apertures and exposure lengths so I could compare corner sharpness), mostly at ISO 100.
The Orion Nebula looks great. The Flame Nebula is barely there. No hint of the Horsehead, Witch Head, or Barnard’s Loop, of course.
I could improve contrast in this photo by removing the light pollution gradient in software, but nothing can bring back the faint nebulosity that has been washed out by artificial skyglow.