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Twice this week I stumbled upon an article mentioning phenemenons visible with the naked eye if no artificial light is near by. The first was a series of meteorites, the second a photo experiment on how the night sky would look without artificial light.

cities withou light here

The question is how far I need to travel away from a well lit city or road to experience such beautiful skys?

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Also note, that while you can see a lot more stars far away from light pollution, you might not see them in such detail as in some of the pictures above. I would estimate that pictures like the Sao Paulo one or the Rio de Janeiro one with all the colourful areas are only visible through photography even in total absence of light. Often times when you see those pretty star panoramas, you couldn't see them with your naked eye, as the human eye is not sensitive enough for that. –  drat Apr 21 at 7:29
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about photography. It's far to broad as a travel question since the answer would be completely different depending on where you are. –  uncovery Apr 21 at 9:10
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@uncovery it is by far about photography. Tbh I don't care about making pictures. I would really like to watch a starry sky without light pollution. But even it was about photography, why wouldn't it fit this QA site. A photographer might be interested in knowing how far he needs to TRAVEL(!!) to make these pictures. –  andra Apr 21 at 9:22
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I think this question is completely on-topic on Travel, as seeing the night sky is a very valid tourism/travel reason. I don't see why it would depend on where you are. I don't understand the close votes at all. –  gerrit Apr 21 at 15:07
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The question is unanswerable because it depends on too many variables. A big city generates more light than a small one. A sprawling city generates more light than a dense one. The wet, dense atmosphere of a coastal city reflects and scatters more light than the dry, thin air of a city in the mountains. Cities with HPS streetlights emit less light than those with mercury vapor lamps; those with LEDs even less. It's impossible to say "drive an hour" or "drive 100km" as a general rule; it's best to consult local amateur astronomy clubs for stargazing spots. –  choster Apr 21 at 15:10

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I am not sure this answers your question but here it goes:

If you travel into the sea at night you will be able to find the most beautifull sky. From my experience, being around 15 miles offcoast should already give you a very nice sky panorama.

Another option is finding a dark sky reserve. It's just like a natural reserve but applied to the sky. Some criteria has to be met for this. In Portugal, Alentejo you can find such a dark sky reserve. It was the first spot on earth receiving the “Starlight Tourism Destination Certification” given by the starlight foundations and supported by Unesco. More information in portuguese can be found here. Meanwhile I found the official? website here. They provide an english version.

It's intersting to check the criteria to have such certification:

  • Clouds: > 50% nights withoug clouds (Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve has more than 286 nights
  • without clouds)
  • Darkness: > 21mag/arcsec² (Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve has 21,60 mag/arcsec²)
  • Vision: ≤ 2"
  • Transparency: mag 6

Alentejo night sky

A quick google search also showed that England recently created a similar reserve in Northumberland county.

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This is also a little bit helpful in finding dark spots: nightlightmap.com –  Bart Arondson Apr 24 at 13:10
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More information on the site of International Dark-sky Association (IDA), which is the recognized authority on light pollution. –  mouviciel Apr 26 at 7:56

Answer isn't clear cut. A lot depends on atmospheric conditions, as well as geography and the direction you're looking.
If there's cloud cover, those city lights can be seen a long way away indeed, it can make the clouds over the place glow (ever more yellow or orange because of the sodium lights used for streetlighting in ever more cities).
If the city is on a hilltop between you and where you're looking at, it's also going to be much more visible then if it were in a depression in the terrain and hidden from direct view.
And a city close by can influence your view even when looking away from it (especially if there's some thin clouds...).
As stated in the comments, size of the city matters a lot. As does the level of technology and prosperity.
Seoul or Tokyo are going to cause a lot more light pollution than do Pyong Yang or Harrare for example.
And don't forget that nice area of greenhouses on the edge of town, they're like beacons in the night. Same with the prison, and the oil refinery with its floodlights on the security perimiter.

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