Montana Earth Science Picture of the Week

Last one out of town shut the lights off!

This enhanced satellite view shows the distribution of nighttime lights across Montana. Can you identify the seven cities that have AA high schools (Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Missoula, Kalispell, Helena, Great Falls)? Perhaps you can pick out several smaller communities as well. CLICK HERE to see a recent image of the USA at Night.

Darkness can be a good thing. . .
The image was provided by the International Dark-Sky Association. The IDA is an organization dedicated to building an awareness light pollution and helping people understand the importance of investing in certain types of lights for outdoor lighting. One reason that the IDA works to promote nighttime darkness is that darker skies make it much easier to view celestial bodies. Even in a state as sparsely populated as Montana both the quantity and quality of what can be seen in the nighttime sky depends on where you are. For instance, someone in Billings will not be able to view auroras or stars nearly as well as someone in Jordan (J). The IDA strives to preserve dark skies in order to enhance viewing of the nighttime sky for everyone, and it believes that one key is for cities like Billings to select types of outdoor lights that minimize light pollution.

Centers . . .
Although Lewistown (L) is the geographic center of the state, Helena (H) seems fairly well-centered among Montana's larger cities. The "middle of nowhere" distinction would have to go to Jordan (J), a speck of light in the center of eastern Montana surrounded by miles of darkness.

Example of Urban Sprawl . . .
Notice the area extending south from Missoula (M). This line of lights marks the location of the Bitterroot Valley. Lolo, Florence, Victor, Stevensville, Corvallis, Hamilton, and Darby are all located in this rapidly growing valley. If you think the Bitterroot Valley is bright, check out other parts of the USA by clicking on the Hot Link below.

Term: urban sprawl


List of Montana Pictures of the Week
*USA at Night
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By Rod Benson
Earth Science Teacher at Helena High School

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