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Malaysian ‘Space Artist’ Paints A Dark Picture If We Don’t Stop Light Pollution

Malaysian ‘Space Artist’ Paints A Dark Picture If We Don’t Stop Light Pollution

Plants and animals depend on the darkness of the night too.

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Be honest, when was the last time you saw actual stars here in the Klang Valley?

On the clearest of nights, most of us here in the city would probably only catch glimpses of a few pale dots or even a satellite or two when we look up at the night’s sky.

But in actuality, Malaysia is one of the best places in the world to watch the stars because of our location at the Equator. You just need to know where to look.

(Credit: ExpatGo)

The star painter

To get more people interested in staring out into space, 26-year-old Nurul Syahirah Nazarudin from Johor Bahru may seem like any other regular primary school teacher by day.

But when the sun goes down, this artist/astronomer turns her attention to the heavens to observe, illustrate and educate the public about the vast mysteries of our universe and how important the night’s sky is for us humans, and the ecosystem in general.

Syahirah Stargazer, as she’s often called, is a ‘space artist’ who uses her talent, creativity and curiosity to create astronomical art or space art for short, which is a genre of art that attempts to both communicate and express what we’ve learned through centuries of space exploration.

(Credit: AstroSyahirah via Twitter)

There are many different types of space art – covering works of realism, impressionism, abstract creations and even zoological concepts – where artists use a combination of science and imagination to accurately depict or simply dream up what other unworldly things lie beyond our own atmosphere.

If you’ve ever seen a space-themed documentary or even a popular science fiction movie, you’d probably have already seen some of the astronomical artworks created by the people who spend hours of their lives conceptualizing our knowledge of the cosmos.

(Credit: Warner Bros/Interstellar via The Conversation)

Syahirah herself dabbles in painting abstract pieces and is a full-fledged member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA). She is the first Malaysian ever to be inducted into the association, a worldwide community of artists that paint, draw, sculpt and make absolutely anything related to the stars, planets and galaxies or anywhere the imagination can go – or so says the organization’s tagline.

The amateur astronomer is also a Dark Sky Ranger for Dark Sky Malaysia and a member of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) devoted to spreading awareness on light pollution and how it diminishes the beauty of the night’s sky.

Syahirah and her peers also organize live astronomical observation events and gatherings here in Malaysia, as well as, working to secure ‘dark sky’ places where people can watch the night’s sky without the distractions from light pollution.

(Credit: AstroSyahirah via Twitter)

We’re losing the dark

Growing up under the gorgeously unpolluted skies in rural Kelantan, Syahirah told TRP that her passion for space began during her youth of endlessly staring into the night.

I have always been fascinated by Astronomy my whole life, ever since I was 7-years-old. Relentless nights of stargazing sparked my curiosity to explore more about the wonders of our universe, what lies beyond our solar system. I started collecting anything that I can get my hands on related to astronomy since it’s hard to obtain astronomy information and resources in the countryside back then.

Nurul Syahirah Nazarudin.

But starting in 2020, Syahirah turned her passion into a tool where she can promote astronomy and teach a thing or two at the same time.

Becoming a space artist is a career I have never planned. Astronomy is an essential knowledge that has been guiding humanity across space and time for thousands of years. The night sky is the clock, the calendar, and the canvas where humans express their imaginations and creativities.

Nurul Syahirah Nazarudin.

The stargazer described that with the march of modern time, we humans are slowly losing touch both intellectually and emotionally with the night’s sky – where our excessive use of artificial lights has caused us to lose the darkness at the speed of light.

The wonders of the night sky have inspired artists, composers, poets and even inventors to express their thoughts as well as producing works of art in an attempt to connect themselves to the celestials. The thought of us slowly losing grasp towards the night sky drives me to produce artistic works that bridge people to the night sky.

Nurul Syahirah Nazarudin

You see, though we humans no longer use the stars in the night’s to navigate our way across the oceans or tell the passage of time, the darkness of the night remains an essential part of life here on Earth.

Artificial lighting disrupts our natural ecosystem simply by turning night into day.

Plants and animals depend on the planet’s day and night cycle to coordinate their behaviours and determine when it is to find food, rest and reproduce (which is no different from us human’s when you think about it).

(Credit: Sajjad Ahmadi/Jake Fagan via Unsplash)

Through their creations, space artists like Syahirah teach us to love and protect the night sky and close the gap between us and the vast reaches of our universe with a human touch of the brush.

Check out more of Syahirah’s work on her personal blog (HERE) or follow her via Instagram or Twitter.

After credits

Now, back to Malaysia being one of the best places to stargaze in the world.

Besides still having a few remote locations where there is little to no light pollution, our country puts us right in the view of the Northern and Southern skies where we can observe the Milky Way Galaxy (the galaxy that includes our solar system).

For those in the Klang Valley, which is heavily light-polluted, Syahirah recommends that you head up Northeast to Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor for a much clearer view of the stars.

(Credit: Hafidz Abdul Kadir via Facebook)

But there are several places scattered around Sabah, Sarawak, Pahang and Terengganu where you can get a naked eye view of the galaxy we live in.

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