Guest blog: Audrey Fischer on the International Starry Night

Posted by David Eicher
on Monday, April 29, 2013

The International Starry Night celebration will take place August 10, 2013, coinciding with the Perseid meteor shower.[/caption]Amateur astronomer and activist Audrey Fischer of Chicago is well known as an influential friend who combats light pollution tirelessly. Now, Audrey, Michael Uberty, and collaborators are putting on a terrific event slated to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower this year — the International Starry Night. And there’s also Starlight Week. Audrey has been good enough to contribute the following description, and I invite you all to participate with yourselves and your astronomy clubs as much as you possibly can. Enjoy!

You can contact Audrey Fischer at and Michael Uberty at

The International Starry Night will take place August 10, 2013, a date that coincides with the Perseid meteor shower.

Invitation: International Starry Night a celebration of starlight! August 10, 2013
Starlight Week, August 11—17, 2013


I write this to you now, as the first rays of the early sunrise streak across my table, keyboard, hands, and face. The life-renewing sunrise is something to which every person on this planet can connect. However, it is the starry night that connects us to the universe and to each other. Starlight has been cherished throughout every culture of human ancestry for thousands of years, but we are losing it rapidly within only a few decades.

The National Park Service study predicts that by 2025, 90% of people in the contiguous U.S. will never see the starry night sky even once in their lifetime. It is similar for most populations the world over. It is time to unite on a global level to stop the exponential increase of harmful light pollution and restore starlight for present and future generations.

You are invited to join in the very first International Starry Night, a special celestial event to view the Perseid meteor shower and celebrate the starry night sky. This is an invitation that we hope people of all ages, colors, and walks of life will put their hearts into, in their own unique ways, to become part of a special synergy that will finally restore the hidden wonders of the starry night.

  • International Starry Night — a celebration of starlight, August 10, 2013. This will be celebrated officially the first Saturday of the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseids have always been many astronomy organizations’ favorite time for public outreach. United together, these events synergistically can have an even greater impact as registered International Starry Night and/or Starlight Week events. Please register your event at If you don’t have an event scheduled, consider teaming up with an established community event and add the Starry Night element. This day is also a call for voluntary citizen action for “Lights Out — Eyes UP.” In addition, on rare celestial events, such as Comet ISON’s appearance or a low-latitude aurorae, we hope the public will be primed to respond and appreciate additional “Lights Out - Eyes UP” alerts so they may experience cosmic wonders from their own backyard.
  • Starlight Week. Starlight week extends International Starry Night. Every public astronomy outreach event between August 11 and August 17, 2013, can be registered.
    Officially proclaimed calendar date: I am delighted to announce Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is the very first governor to sign an official proclamation for “Starlight Week,” August 11–17, 2013. This is great in and of itself; however, each governor who signs on will enhance our chances of getting an official nationally and/or internationally proclaimed calendar date dedicated for starlight restoration. Just as Earth has its day, all the stars deserve at least one. Please contact your governor and request the same for your state. Contact your community and invite them to participate.
  • Historical Artifact: Make a Wish — The Starry Night Banner Compilation. This gem is the idea of astronomer/activist Michael Uberty. People are encouraged to make a wish on the first Perseid meteor they see and then inscribe it onto a large banner material provided by the host organization. Inclusions of cosmic artwork and poetry would be splendid. (Consider providing material for two near-duplicate banners. One can be a historical keepsake for your organization, and a second to be combined with banners from all participating Starry Night events to make one gigantic banner to be displayed in Washington, D.C., either at the National Mall or the White House. We would like to ask the President for a nationally proclaimed Starry Night, and better still, a national and international commitment to restoring starlight for today’s and future generations.
  • Historical Artifact — CD/DVD compilation of music and other arts celebrating the Starry Night Sky. Now seeking cosmically inspired music, poetry, mythology readings, photography, time-lapse videography, paintings, and more to assemble into a CD/DVD that will provide a welcome companion at the observing site or cloudy night.

Quotations of Vincent van Gogh

“Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high. Then life seems almost enchanted after all.”

“I confess I do not know why, but looking at the stars always makes me dream.”

“At present I absolutely want to paint a starry sky. It often seems to me that night is still more richly colored than the day, having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens. If only you pay attention to it you will see that certain stars are lemon-yellow, others pink or a green, blue, and forget-me-not brilliance. And without my expatiating on this them,e it is obvious that putting little white dots on the blue-black is not enough to paint a starry sky.”

“I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.”

“Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.”


“Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?”


“Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis, and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses, and railways are the terrestrial means. To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.”

“When I have a terrible need of — shall I say the word — religion. Then I go out and paint the stars.”

The Chinese recorded the first observation of the (then unnamed) Perseid meteor shower in 36 AD. Translated, what the observers said was “more than 100 meteors flew thither in the morning.” The Perseid meteor shower has delighted people for nearly 2000 years. And now our generation is spoiling this experience with uncontrolled light pollution. Let’s fix this!

One of the most recognized paintings in the world is Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Ironically, humanity is losing the real starry night. This is why we chose Starry Night as the theme. Our goal is to raise awareness of harmful light pollution and appreciation for the starry night sky — the first steps toward starlight restoration and re-connection.

A coincidental tidbit I came across for our International Starry Night event is the Belgium link. Although he was born in Newfoundland, Vincent van Gogh was a missionary in Belgium, where he began his serious study of art by sketching the coal miners he was preaching to. Well, it just so happens that in 1835, a Belgian astronomer, Adolphe Quételet, first figured out that the meteor shower emanated from the constellation Perseus. It would be cool if Belgian astronomers participated in the very first International Starry Night. We’ll see!

I am delighted to introduce new collaborative partners: an inspirational class of seventh-graders who is urging their hometown to “Hit the Lights — save the stars one light at a time.” Their first attempt has a date of May 2, 2013. Kudos to these students! If you know of other students who might like to get something started in their school or community, please invite them! Share their story with us. Today's youth have the most to lose, as they are the first generation growing up where neither they nor their parents likely ever saw a night sky with the Milky Way. It doesn’t need to be that way.

So please, open the discussions in your astronomy associations, in the classrooms, community groups, and churches. Have fun doing it. Speak up for starlight restoration. Register your event. Share your ideas, pictures, and posters. Build the synergy. With any luck at all, our efforts will help turn on some stars!

I finished this message to you while viewing the nearly full Moon. My, where did the day go?!



It is possible to recover the magnificence of the starry night sky to once again inspire & nurture the hearts and souls of all children of this planet. This is the goal at its core and intrinsic to humanity. This will not happen without a unified, conscious global effort. Starlight: a treasure not to lose.


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