Yesterday the Los Angeles Times ran a superb story called A Desert Plea: Let there be darkness about light pollution spreading from the city out into the desert, many many miles away.
This is something we noticed when we moved from the city out to the sticks ourselves — in ourselves.
Put simply, country people are comfortable with dark nights; city people are not.
As we grew accustomed to life outside of town, we eventually found ourselves taking comfort in the darkness, just as years before we took comfort in the lights of others, even people we didn't know.
(How we feel about darkness is an interesting psychological phenomenon that Hemingway wrote about fairly directly in his justly famous short story A Clean Well-Lighted Place.)
But closer to home, reporter Rong-Gong Lin II closes with a wonderful anecdote:
So foreign are the real night skies to Los Angeles that in 1994, after the Northridge earthquake jostled Angelenos awake at 4:31 a.m., the observatory received many calls asking about "the strange sky they had seen after the earthquake."
"We finally realized what we were dealing with," [Ed] Krupp, [director of the observatory] said. "The quake had knocked out most of the power, and people ran outside and they saw the stars. The stars were in fact so unfamiliar; they called us wondering what happened."
For those interested in seeing the stars, JPL has all sorts of wonderful resources…or, of course, you can go out to the unlit desert some cold night and just look up into the starry skies.
Here's a composite photo of the night sky over Death Valley, featuring the Milky Way, taken by a National Park Service ranger.