Artificial lighting is, for today’s society, a necessity in modern life. But it has also led to what scientists have termed as light pollution, a phenomenon that hasn’t just resulted in otherwise visible planets and stars being obscured in the nighttime sky, but also potential risks to our environment and our own health, as some researchers have claimed. This is especially true in some of the world’s largest cities, and with that in mind, the folks behind the SKYGLOW project have released a new video which features a simulation of how New York City would look like if the stars were as visible as they should usually be.
As explained on its official website, SKYGLOW is the brainchild of filmmakers Gavin Heffernan and Harun Mehmedinovic, with contributions from the International Dark Sky Association, an organization formed in 1988 to protect “the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting.” With SKYGLOW having worked on an earlier video of Los Angeles in similarly simulated conditions, the new video of New York City without light pollution serves as a follow-up to that previous clip, while also helping the Dark Sky Association celebrate Dark Sky Week, which takes place from April 15 to 21, according to Gizmodo.
Despite its realistic appearance, the video is “not real footage,” as it simply features footage from New York City, with the nighttime stars as seen in the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and other dark-sky locations superimposed in the background.
According to Fortune, the video is the product of the years Heffernan and Mehmedinovic have spent traveling to various locations around the world, in hopes of capturing the night skies that have become less and less visible since the dawn of the Industrial Era. But it would take a lot of effort for SKYGLOW’s video to be transformed from concept to reality, as Fortune noted that all artificial outdoor lighting would need to be turned off in New York City, despite the “inspiring” view the video offers to viewers.
An article on the International Dark Sky Association’s website detailed the negative impact of light pollution, which the organization described as a “side effect of industrial civilization,” and a result of “inefficient” and “completely unnecessary” outdoor lighting from various sources. Based on a 2016 study, the phenomenon mostly affects locations in the United States and Europe, where 99 percent of people “can’t experience a natural night.” With artificial lighting dominating the night skies in mostly urban areas, the Dark Sky Association wrote that studies have suggested negative effects such as higher electricity consumption, risks to human health, higher crime rates, and disruptions to the world’s ecosystems.