I’m a photographer who loves taking pictures of the night sky. I’ve had people ask me how to take pictures of the milky way. The most important step is to find a dark sky. If you have much light pollution, especially towards the south, the milky way can be completely hidden behind the ugly glow. I’ve also had people email me asking me where to find these dark sites and how to get to them. Living in Illinois which is one of the most light polluted states makes it harder to find dark skies. There are many areas especially towards the east coast where it is hard to escape the light pollution. But it is possible. I created this website so there would be better light pollution maps and lists of observing sites.
This was taken in Kenosha County, looking south towards the heavily populated Lake County and Chicago which is 60 miles away. It is sad that this was the darkest sky I could find in between Chicago and Milwaukee.
The light pollution from Springfield, Illinois which is almost 30 miles away, washes out most of the milky way.
And this is what the night sky looks like, far from sources of light pollution. This was taken in Mount Sterling, Iowa.
Unfortunately light pollution is a growing problem. It not only blocks out the stars, but it also wastes energy, is harmful to wildlife, and has been connected to human health problems. Every night many lights are pointlessly left on, wasting money and helping no one. In addition, many lights are poorly shielded so that most of the glow shines upward instead of downward. The good news is this is easy to fix. By turning off unnecessary lights and properly shielding the ones that are necessary, you can help bring back the same night sky that has inspired people for millenia. For more information about light pollution and how to reduce it, visit the International Dark Sky Association.