Stars Are Obscured By Artificial Light In Our Nighttime Skies, Study Shows
In a phenomenon scientists call “light pollution,” most people on the planet cannot see a vibrant view of the stars.
Light pollution refers to the over- abundance of artificial city lights that brighten our skies at night. Much of the artificial light comes from traffic, buildings and street lights. As anyone living in an urban area knows, sometimes the night sky is so filled with light that it almost looks like daylight.
All of it creates a “fog of light pollution,” over our skies, according to a new study by Science Advances.
“The entire population lives under skies so bright that the eye cannot fully dark-adapt to night vision,” the study states.
All of that artificial light obscures one of the most spectacular views in the night sky, the Milky Way galaxy where our solar system is located. Aside from interfering with star-gazing, all of that light might also be bad for our health and the environment.
The study indicates that about one-third of the planet can’t see the Milky Way. That’s 80 percent of Americans and 60 percent of Europeans. To illustrate the problem, the study includes a world atlas created by scientists that shows artificial nighttime luminance across our planet.
“This is a huge cultural loss with unforeseeable consequences in the future generations,” scientist Fabio Falchi, an author of the study, told CNN. For example, many children and grandchildren cannot experience the night skies as their parents and grandparents have done.
“Pristine night skies are a precious merchandise,” Falchi said.
That’s exactly what the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is also saying. The group is searching for ways to keep our night skies dark and allow people to appreciate the beauty of the stars.
Light pollution “robs us of the opportunity to experience the wonder of a natural night sky,” according to IDA’s website. In 2001, the IDA began a program called International Dark Sky Places to help raise awareness and encourage communities to keep their skies darker at night.
According to IDA and other organizations, keeping the sky too light poses risks to our health and the environment. The study points to to disruptions in nature, particularly for sea animals.
Too much artificial light can disrupt the sleep cycle, hormone production and even our circadian rhythm, according to a 2007 medical study.
The Milky Way is just “one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe,” according to Universe Today.
The Earth’s solar system is located within the Milky Way, a spiral shaped galaxy that is similar to more than two-thirds of the galaxies known to man. The Milky Way was so-named because it appears to be within a “hazy band of glowing white light,” according to Universe Today.
Astronomers believe the Milky Way’s center is a giant black hole, full of energy and occasional vivid flares. Overall, the galaxy is a staggering 120,000 light-years across and about 1,000 light-years thick.
The Milky Way “has hundreds of billions of stars, enough gas and dust to make billions more stars, and at least ten times as much dark matter as all the stars and gas put together. And it’s all held together by gravity,” according to NASA.
Other countries with more than half of all people living under artificially bright skies include:
Kuwait – 98 percent
Qatar – 97 percent
United Arab Emirates – 93 percent
Saudi Arabia – 83 percent
South Korea – 66 percent
Israel – 61 percent
Argentina – 58 percent
Libya – 53 percent
Trinidad and Tobago – 50 percent
[Photo by Getty Images]