Monday, August 26, 2013

Streetlight Astronomy

On a clear and smokeless night, if you look outside from a high building it is easy to find the beautiful network of minuscule lights forming various constellation amidst the darkness.

I'm not referring to the stars twinkling in the night sky but rather on the street lamps lining up the highways, alleyways and city streets.

I have a useless hobby, only good if you have plenty of time on your hands and if you happened to be living on some high building with a nice unobstructed view of the cityscape. Like a good astronomer, I map constellations formed by the street lights and give names based on the patterns they formed.

It's easy to find a pattern, as most street lights line up a straight road, successive lamps would more or less form a straight line of small lights. What is a little tougher is finding patterns from lights from different streets maybe those a hundred or so meters away from each other.

It's nice to find a particular pattern and name them with what you want as if you are discovering some new star or celestial object. But since you discovered them you can give something cool, something you want for their names.

Below is an image what the Downtown hemisphere, the top left area is the Skway (not included in the image) and on the right side  is the Osmena highway as seen on a vantage point on a building near the corner of Buendia Avenue and Osmena higway. This is sort of a star chart of the street,  a Streetlight Chart if you wish ( and I am a streetlight astronomer).

I have labeled some of the constellations that I discovered (I'm not planning on labeling them all). The image is a crappy capture, low res. The actual view much more radiant, the lights are much more visible. Some of the constellations I found in real view can't be found in the image because some lights are displayed very faintly to distinguish.

And below are the enlarged versions of the labelled constellations.

It is interesting to realise that the lamps form a very different pattern aside from their geographical location. Though seemingly unrelated, a lamp on the corner of Batangas St. for example is actually connected to a streetlight somewhere in Libertad by an arbitrary pattern created by an observer above, just as the stars Betelgeuse and Aldebaran are actually connected by a pattern perceived by an observer millions of light years away them. Extreme pattern finding on its highest level.

Yeah, it's sort of a useless hobby as there is no real-life application of the streetlight chart whatsoever. Although similar to a star chart, the streetlight chart can serve as an alternative map, a location pointer only applicable if viewed on the exact place where the map is created. It can serve as a coded map, one only need to give names to the individual streetlights forming the constellations to be usable.

I'll meet you at the Daenerys star in the Laser Sword constellation. 3'oclock sharp.

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