Sagittarius Star Cloud / Hubble Space Telescope – NASA
What’s your guess on how many stars you can see with the unaided eye on a dark night? It’s common to hear people say the sky was filled with millions of stars after returning from a camping trip to a dark locale like the Boundary Waters. Or at the very least many thousands. That certainly is the impression from a truly dark sky site. Now the reality.
Astronomers have logged and characterized all the naked eye stars in something called the Yale Bright Star Catalog, and the total for both northern and southern hemispheres comes to a palty 9110. That’s what you’d see during an entire year from the darkest place you could find. From the northern hemisphere alone, that number shrinks to about 5000 — again for the entire year. On any particular night from your backyard along the suburban fringes of a modest city like Duluth, it’s only around 700. And if we take a drive to Chicago … well, let’s not go there.