If you like to do astro-photography – shooting images of the sky at night – one of the key things you need to do is avoid light pollution from nearby cities, factories, etc. There are several sites that help you to identify those areas that have been designated as dark-sky reserves but often these are specific places that may be too far away to be of much use to you.
However a new website featuring a mash-up of Google Maps and the recent NASA “Blue Marble” Earth at Night photos means it is now much easier to spot potential dark skies nearer to home.
The Blue Marble Night Lights 2012 Navigator allows you to move around and zoom in and out just as you would with Google Maps, but shows the night-time illumination instead of the traditional map or day-time satellite images. This means you can spot areas near you where there is little light at night and hopefully therefore little in the way of light pollution. Of course for the perfect star shots it still might be worthwhile planning a trip further afield (I know from visiting some pretty remote areas on my travels that the sky can be stunning with no light pollution) but the Blue Marble Navigator is a good option if you want to give astro-photography a try.