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Are you an amateur astronomer or someone who appreciates a clear night sky? Unfortunately, a new study published in Science found that light Pollution is intensifying worldwide, making it harder and harder to see the stars.
Source: National Geographic/Youtube
A team of researchers analyzed tens of thousands of citizen science observations of the night sky as part of the Globe at Night project run by NOIRLab. They found that from 2011 to 2022, the night sky got 9.6% brighter each year, which means that some dimmer stars would disappear altogether for many stargazers. For example, a location with 250 visible stars would see that number reduce to just 100 visible stars over the same period.
The main culprit behind this phenomenon is human light Pollution, specifically skyglow, which is caused by the brightening of the night sky and makes it difficult for Earth-based observers to see the more distant and often faint light from stars. The researchers also noted that the advent of LED lights may have contributed to the increase in light Pollution. LEDs allow more light to be produced for the same amount of energy, and their method of producing white light also emits a lot of blue light, which is the most problematic for sky brightness.
The study’s lead researcher, Christopher Kyba, suggests that using only the necessary amount of light and avoiding very cold white lights and those that produce ultraviolet light would be a good step in reducing light Pollution.
It’s not just stargazers that are affected by light Pollution. Creatures that rely on typical light patterns can suffer when artificial light is introduced to their environment. Light sources in orbit, like satellite constellations, have also proven to be a problem for astronomers.
The study concludes that awareness must significantly increase for artificial light at night to be perceived not as an always-positive thing but as the pollutant it is. So, next time you’re out on a clear night, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the stars and consider ways you can reduce light Pollution in your community. You can start by turning off lights when they’re not needed and using lower-wattage bulbs. Let’s work together to preserve the natural beauty of the night sky for generations to come.
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