Nighttime star visibility is decreasing by 10% a year due to light pollution, study warns
Stargazing could soon be a thing of the past: Visibility of stars in the night sky is declining by 10% a year thanks to light pollution, study warns
- Researchers evaluated 51,351 star sightings between 2011 and 2022
- The night sky has increased in brightness by 7 to 10% per year due to artificial lighting
- This is equivalent to doubling the brightness of the night sky in less than 8 years
There is something very awe-inspiring about looking up at the night sky and seeing distant stars twinkling back at you.
From the glowing arc of the Milky Way to dozens of intricate constellations, the human eye should be able to see several thousand stars on a clear, dark night.
But in bad news for stargazers, the spectacular sight is “disappearing” due to increasing light pollution, according to a new study.
Observations of the night sky over the past 12 years show that the change in visibility equates to a 9.6 percent increase in sky brightness per year.
Observations of the night sky over the past 12 years show that the change in visibility equates to a 9.6 percent increase in sky brightness per year
To put this in perspective, the authors say that a child born in an area where 250 stars are visible is likely to see fewer than 100 stars in the same location 18 years later.
Researchers reviewed 51,351 observations by citizen scientists of stars observed with the naked eye between 2011 and 2022.
To determine the brightness of the night sky, they asked participants around the world to compare star charts to what they could see with their own eyes.
According to the findings, artificial light has increased the brightness of the night sky by about 7 to 10 percent per year.
This is the equivalent of doubling the brightness of the night sky in less than eight years, they said.
Astronaut photos of parts of Calgary show examples of how lighting changed from 2010-2021: New lighting has been installed and many street lights have been converted from orange high-pressure sodium to white LED
And it far exceeds data from satellites, which suggest that the brightness of the night sky has increased by about 2 percent per year.
When the researchers looked specifically at Europe, they found an increase in brightness of 6.5 percent per year.
The research, published in the journal Science, was carried out by teams from the German Research Center for Geosciences and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US.
Connie Walker, from NSF, said: ‘The increase in skyglow over the past decade underscores the importance of redoublening our efforts and developing new strategies to protect dark skies.’
Commenting on the study, David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences at The Open University, said local councils need to take action to help reduce light pollution in the UK.
“Light pollution is a serious problem not only for those of us who like to see the stars, but also for wildlife,” he said.
‘It is also a waste of electricity – and money – and therefore makes it more difficult to achieve the climate targets.
‘Municipalities could take action here. They would have to withdraw permission for illuminated name and logo signs on industrial units that are currently on all night.
“They should require industrial and domestic security lights to have screens that only direct the light down onto the owner’s property, instead of wasting half of it around the neighborhood.
“Perhaps now that electricity costs are so high, people will become more sensible and start saving money by lighting only what they need.”
LIGHT POLLUTION IS ARTIFICIAL LIGHT THAT IS EXTRAORDINARY, STRIKING AND WASTE
Light pollution, also known as photopollution, is the presence of anthropogenic light in the nighttime environment.
Artificial light that is excessive, intrusive and ultimately wasteful is called light pollution and directly affects how bright our night sky looks.
With over nine million streetlights and 27 million offices, factories, warehouses and homes across the UK, the amount of light we throw into the sky is staggering.
While some of the light escapes into space, the rest is scattered by molecules in the atmosphere, making it difficult to see the stars against the night sky. What you see instead is ‘Skyglow’.
The increasing number of people living on Earth and the corresponding increase in inappropriate and unshielded outdoor lighting has led to light pollution – a brightening night sky that has blotted out the stars for much of the world’s population.
Most people have to travel far from home, away from the glow of artificial light, to experience the awe-inspiring expanse of the Milky Way as our ancestors once knew it.
Light pollution is excessive and inappropriate artificial light. While some of the light escapes into space, the rest is scattered by molecules in the atmosphere, making it difficult to see the stars against the night sky. What you see instead is ‘Skyglow’
The negative effects of losing this inspiring natural resource may seem elusive.
But a growing body of evidence directly links the brightening night sky to measurable negative effects on human health and the immune system, to adverse behavioral changes in insect and animal populations, and to a decline in both environmental quality and safety in our nocturnal environment.
Astronomers were among the first to document the negative effects of wasted lighting on scientific research, but to all of us, the adverse economic and environmental effects of wasted energy can be seen in everything from monthly electricity bills to global warming.
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