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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

As a girl, I was thrilled by the night sky. Must my son grow up without seeing the Milky Way?

Person sitting on a car looking at stars
‘There were nights when the skies were so clear that the only thing that you could do was stop the car and get out to marvel at them.’ Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

I was saddened to read about how light pollution is rapidly reducing the number of stars visible to the naked eye. In some locations where 250 stars are visible, it is estimated that only 100 will be visible in 18 years’ time.

Growing up in the countryside, there were nights when the skies were so clear that if you were driving you felt compelled to pull over and get out to marvel at them. The only place where I have seen stars clearer than in Snowdonia (Eryri) is on remote Greek islands, where you find yourself gazing upwards, stupefied – an effect that is increased, in my experience, by copious amounts of local booze.

I would have liked to have made a hobby of stargazing. We used to take family trips to Jodrell Bank observatory and, like many children, I was fascinated by space. But despite my father’s childhood telescope gathering dust in the shed throughout my youth (it was from the 1960s and no longer worked), I didn’t feel deprived. To see the Milky Way, I just had to look up.

Now that I have a baby boy who is a Londoner, I find myself thinking about the things he might miss out on from having a childhood different from mine. My husband has confessed to wanting a telescope, but he believes it would be pointless in the capital. I love the idea of them looking at the stars together.

Perhaps it is imaginings such as these that lead people to flee the city when they have children. In the meantime, the baby’s star-projector lamp, through which I play various songs about space – his favourite being Rocket Man – will have to suffice.

• Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a Guardian columnist

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