Quirks & Quarks

For many the milky way Is out of sight

Light pollution from artificial light has profoundly changed the light environment, blinding city-dwellers to the stars, and potentially having impacts on nocturnal animals as well.

Light pollution around high population areas is washing out the night sky

Map of Canada's sky brightness (Science Advances, Kyba et al.)
One of the biggest changes humans have made to our environment is in the amount of artificial light emitted at night, which scientists refer to as light pollution.  The effect is so profound that an team of scientists, including Canadian physicist Dr. Christopher Kyba from the German Research Centre For Geosciences in Potsdam felt the need to create an atlas to document the severity of what's called artificial skyglow.

Skyglow is created by light,  mostly from urban areas, directed upwards into the nighttime sky. As a result as much as one-third of the world's population can no longer see the Milky Way in the night sky. But perhaps the greater concern is the entirely unknown ecological impact on nocturnal animals who can't hide in the dark from predators.

Dr. Kyba hopes that awareness of the issue will lead to light pollution mitigation efforts, like shielding lights and reducing artificial safety lighting to the minimum amount required in a given area.

Related Links

Paper in Science Advances
- German Research Centre For Geosciences release
- Washington Post story 
- The Guardian story
- Science news story
- Interactive light pollution map