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Thread: Snow lightens the sky?

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    Default Snow lightens the sky?



    I have been out early the past couple of mornings doing some naked eye gazing... Jupiter and Mars in the Southeast not too far from Spica, Gemini high in the West, Leo more to the SW, Arcturus and Vega (summer must be coming ) in the East. Temps are in the single digits F.

    I was expecting very clear skies, but the background has actually been brighter than I see most Summer and Fall mornings in the pre-dawn hours. Is this a result of snow on the ground reflecting whatever ambient light is around back up into the sky? It was very surprising and a bit disturbing to me.

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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    Yes it does and those Christmas lights and the waxing Moon don't help, either.

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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    Quote Originally Posted by seawolfe View Post
    Yes it does and those Christmas lights and the waxing Moon don't help, either.
    Thanks for the affirmation, don't have to worry about the waxing Moon or even Christmas lights at 5:00 AM, but the snow? It is everywhere and doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon.

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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    It's been a long time since my Ohio nights in the snow, but you're likely correct about the shine reflection. Even the newer LED street lights add to the reflection (IMO) because they tend to be pointed directly downward.

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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    Wow I never expected this but then again snow is white and reflects everything back away from it. I have never tried a telescope in the snow but I think I might like to see for myself some day.
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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    Bob,

    definitely makes a huge difference. With my CCD, I get background ADU's much higher with snow on the ground. Now I don't know if it would be as bad from a dark, non-light polluted area but in the city it is terrible. I think they found that one of the various dark sky maps had issues because it was made during the winter - one where there was more snow than normal.

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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    I'm also in the Northeast US and notice a similar effect. New LED's are so bright it's kind of insane. They're reflection off the snow is likely enhanced. Best month for observation this time of year too, cold clear, dark nights. Light pollution.

    I've actually reached out to local shopping plazas and universities, as they are light pollution hot spots and they've been very receptive to changing to dark sky friendly lighting. Two places have already retrofit lighting, adjusted on-time schedules and reduced linen fixtures in an effort to reduce light pollution. Pretty cool! Just ask around, people are more receptive to the idea of light reduction than you might think. You just gotta ask.

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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    Quote Originally Posted by cleary524 View Post
    I'm also in the Northeast US and notice a similar effect. New LED's are so bright it's kind of insane. They're reflection off the snow is likely enhanced. Best month for observation this time of year too, cold clear, dark nights. Light pollution.

    I've actually reached out to local shopping plazas and universities, as they are light pollution hot spots and they've been very receptive to changing to dark sky friendly lighting. Two places have already retrofit lighting and adjusted in-time schedules in an effort to reduce light pollution. Pretty cool! Just ask around, people are more receptive to the ideas of light reduction than you might think.

    Cheers
    That is great news. Guess I start with hitting up the town and their recent LED streetlight bulb replacements.

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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    Quote Originally Posted by bobharmony View Post
    I was expecting very clear skies, but the background has actually been brighter than I see most Summer and Fall mornings in the pre-dawn hours. Is this a result of snow on the ground reflecting whatever ambient light is around back up into the sky? It was very surprising and a bit disturbing to me.

    Bob
    As you found out and others have confirmed, snow can have a major impact on sky brightness. Having all the Christmas lights doesn't help either of course. But snow is highly reflective, and even the earlier light pollution atlas developed by David Lorenz a few years back was impacted by this characteristic. He later determined that the satellite imagery utilized in his original efforts came from a time when many areas of the country were snow-covered, thus skewing the results to the brighter end of the scale for many regions. Since I live in a suburban area, I tend not to observe when there is snow on the ground. I already have enough light to deal with under normal conditions, and don't wish to be frustrated further by increases in sky glow due to snow.

    A similar brightening affect happens during summer when humidity is elevated. The increased moisture in the air scatters our already present sky glow further, making the sky brighter. So as one can see there are other factors conspiring to make it more difficult for us!
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    Default Re: Snow lightens the sky?

    From my experience snow will definitely brighten the sky because of it reflecting artificial lighting upward--even the amount of lighting that will do minimal sky brightening in summer will brighten it more in winter. In cities/suburbs It can really mess up observing.

    However, in a truly dark environment (i.e. no significant developments, towns, cities for a hundred miles or more) the sky remains VERY dark. In fact, some of the darkest, most transparent skies I have ever seen were in late winter up along the Canadian Border here in Minnesota. Zero light domes in any direction down to the horizon, and the Zodiacal Light a vivid yellow, arcing far across the sky.
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