On a moonless night in Mongolia, the darkness is a black hole that will suck in whatever light your flashlight emits. At most, you’ll see a few feet in front of you. But without it… the world literally disappears.
In the fall and early winter, the streetlights in my Aimag were tied to some schedule other than darkness. They either didn’t come on until well after dark, or they simply didn’t come on. Eventually, though, they were on reliably at dusk and the walk home from a fellow PCV’s, or the Tuesday night English club, was that much safer. (The sidewalks in Govi-Altai would be a lawsuit-waiting-to-happen in any US city: uneven, rock-filled, with open manholes and completely without accessibility ramps.)
If the streetlights’ coming on was a gamble, however, the streetlights’ going off was a sure thing: every night at midnight is a darkness-imposed curfew. I’d been outside a handful of times, or else at home in some stage of the getting-ready-for-bed routine, when the switch has been flipped. (They come on again at some early morning hour, for which I have thankfully not been awake.) Without that light pollution, and with the tallest (2) buildings at 5 stories, the vastness of the Mongolian night sky can fully be taken in: stars and constellations, satellites and planets, and one night during PST I swear I saw the Milky Way.
My previous mentions of the Mongolian sky have been in the context of the nearly ever-present sunshine that’s earned the country the nickname “The Land of Blue Sky.” Well, the nighttime sky is just as awesomely breathtaking. This city-girl, for one, can’t get enough of it!