Light pollution is such an ever-present issue in cities that it’s hard to imagine what a sprawling metropolis would look like without it. Even in the middle of a quiet evening, light pollution dampens the intensity of the night sky. Artist Nicholas Buer spent over a year capturing footage to create a short film that reveals what London’s sky would look like at night in the midst of a complete blackout. Spoiler: it’s beautiful.
On his Vimeo page, Buer explains how he captured the images: “The city shots were captured during the day and processed to look like night and the night sky shots were captured from dark locations around the South of England to ensure that the stars are astronomically correct for the latitude of London. I have also processed the astro shots to be more sympathetic to what the naked eye would see in terms of saturation and detail.”
The idea for the video, called Blackout City, came to Buer after reading about a Los Angeles blackout in 1994, where people were so confused by the sight of the Milky Way that they called 911 to report the “strange clouds” in the sky. People in the city were so disconnected from the night sky that they were puzzled–seemingly frightened, even–by one of the best-known natural phenomena in existence. Buer hopes the film can help people overcome that disconnect.
Buer isn’t the first person to imagine urban skies without the light pollution. Darkened Cities, a photo series from French photographer Thierry Cohen, imagines famous cities with completely natural night skies.