Those who us who turn to the stars as a hobby have a scale to rank the darkness of the night, the Bortle Scale where 9 is the brightest skies and 1 is the darkest. In America the majority of people spend their lives in areas of 5 through 8 and rarely see anything different. This huge light pollution is impacting us in ways we don’t yet fully understand; lately studies have been linking light-overuse and such things as sleep disorders diabetes, obesity and cancer. It is important to remember that we’re not the only important organisms on the world and that this light is having serious consequences on the circadian cycles of many animals, and effect which is having a knock-on effect through ecosystems worldwide. However, we must not think of the purely measurable effects but also about what is being lost to us as a species in less tangible ways. The dark of night gave so much to our ancestors, thousands upon thousands of stars inspiring their imagination and influencing their art, their mythologies, their religious beliefs and their place in the universe. But more than that it offered an often intangible solitude and a perfect quiet. It is such a shame that so many people know a sky with no more than 10 stars when in reality it is so much more. I hope that we can start to reverse this process, this wasteful use of light to bring back the beauty of the night.
What can you do about it?
Around the world are a series of Dark Sky Preserves, Reserves and Parks. These areas all have their own programs to reduce light pollution, be it encouraging cities to use more efficient lights, to reduce traffic late at night, to encourage citizens to pull their curtains at night, ever little bit helps. You can get involved by hitting up Google to find your local dark sky reserve or petition to start a dark sky reserve and get involved by spreading awareness and doing your bit! Together we can bring the beauty of the night sky back to the citizens of America and the world. The night sky inspires us in so many ways and I hope you get the chance to see the sky in a beautiful 1 or 2 ranked sky!
In Chapter XI of Cosmos, “The Persistence of Memory,” Carl Sagan demonstrates how the use of motors in boats has make it impossible for whales to communicate as they had previously. Here is a paragraph from the chapter in question:
For tens of millions of years these enormous,…
Encroaching Light Pollution
Photograph courtesy Zachary Grether, TWAN
A lone tree appears to stand guard next to Canyon Lake, Arizona, under a canopy of stars in this early morning portrait created by Zach Grether.
The dome of artificial light coming from the nearby small town of Globe, Arizona, combined with the bright lights of the Canyon Lake Marina are considered localized light pollution that is dim enough to let most of the starlight be visible.
when i first started living with grandpa i used to spend most of my nights on the roof a lot
up until then and for a little while longer i had always figured that the stars shone brighter in rural areas because there were less people there and people tainted the stars with their combined…
|—||Carl Sagan, Contact|
Yes. We are losing the night sky. I’m telling you this because we are all guilty of causing this, usually without knowing it. I’m talking about light pollution.
Light pollution is the effect city lights have on the sky. It blocks out the night sky, confuses and leads to the deaths of many animals, affects our health, wastes energy and money, and more. Here is what light pollution looks like.
This is Orion’s belt. The left is what it should look like to us, and the right is what we actually see, because of light pollution. Light goes up in the air and bounces off of particles, creating a shield of light over us at night. It’s like how the sky is blue during the day time, because the atmosphere blocks it out. It’s like that but really ugly.
Look at this scale and see where your city falls.
Look at the one on the right, though! It looks so nice. There is an obvious difference between the brightness of the stars, and you can also see different colors in the sky. Yes, that’s right- the night sky is supposed to have different hues. Ever seen the Milky Way? Probably not. Two-thirds of people cannot look up and find the Milky Way. Here is what you should see, and how we see it with lights.
It’s absolutely beautiful when not covered.
Now think. We all know that the sky is beautiful in the country, away from city lights. But actually, you have to go out very very very far to get away from city lights. Lights from the city affect large areas. You can be a hundred miles away from a city and still be affected by their lights. There’s a reason astronomers build their telescopes in deserts or on top of mountains. They have to. Because the sky is slowly turning into this:
Many big cities already look like this.
Light pollution is not only affecting the sky, though. It affects wildlife and us. Living things have evolved to live on a Circadian cyle, which means we NEED both day and night. When the night is taken away, animals become confused by lights. They may stop reproducing. Or they often are taken off their migratory paths, run into buildings, go where they aren’t supposed to, and more. For example, Florida is having major problems with their sea turtles going towards the city rather than the ocean.
It also affects our health. Humans produce a hormone called Melatonin that is only produced in darkness. Melatonin is used to help you sleep, supress cancer, and much more. People who work under lights at night or do not sleep in the dark may have trouble sleeping, and are at greater risk for cancer.
And of course, there are the effects of not being able to see the sky. Is it okay to live and not be able to see how huge the universe around us is? When we see something unusual in the sky, we don’t understand it. We are often little better than people in olden times who saw comets and thought they were bad omens. Look up at that bright orange star in that picture of Orion at the top of this post.
That star is Betelgeuse (pronounced Beetle Juice). Some of us know it from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But do you know why it’s so cool? It is very old and could possibly go supernova in our life time. If it does, it will be brighter than a full moon and stay in the sky for quite a while. And nobody knows things like that about our sky. I think it’s important to understand the universe around us. Earth is a floating rock in the middle of a huge active universe. It doesn’t stop existing just because we can’t see it. When people don’t see the sky, we don’t think about it or anything out there.
Here are some more pictures of light pollution.
The picture above is of the Andromeda galaxy. In a clear sky, you can actually see another galaxy with the naked eye. This is the one our galaxy is going to collide with.
SO. HERE IS HOW YOU CAN HELP.
It is very simple. Just turn off the lights! Light pollution is 100% preventable, and 100% reversible. If you turn off the lights, you can immediately see the sky as it should be. Most people don’t even know how amazing the night sky should look. Here are some little things you can do to help.
1. Turn off lights you aren’t using. It’s easy. If you aren’t using a light, just turn it off.
2. Take care of your outside lights. I’m going to be frank here. Outside lights are not as helpful as you think in preventing crime. Most crimes occur during the daytime. Most people who have their lights on outside are doing so to keep safe, but are actually just giving themselves a sense of security. If you have outside lights, they should be aimed downward. This will aim the light where you want it. They should also be covered so that they are not blinding and will not create dark spots for invaders to hide it. A very important thing is make sure they are motion sensors. Leaving lights on all night is a waste of money and energy. If a burgler sees that your lights are always on, they will ignore them. If they are motion sensors, the lights will alert you to when someone is on your property and is more likely to scare someone away.
3. See what you can do about the street lights in your area. Street lights are responsible for a lot of light pollution. If the street lights around you look like this
These are bad. These lights spread light all around, cover much of the sky, and do not get much light where you need it. They are more expensive to run.
See who is responsible for street lights where you live. Perhaps you can help to get them changed!
It’s difficult to explain this much in one post! So for better references, please watch this:
Becuase a video will give you a much better understanding than just a post.
Also read here:
NASA of course has got it all figured out. This article will give you a good understanding of what light pollution is, what it does, why you should care, and how to fix it.
Please help to bring back the night sky! It’s so easy!
And please, please reblog this! The sky is above all of us. The only reason light pollution is not being fixed is because of an extreme lack of awareness. Reblog this, tell people you know about this, start turning off lights, please. It is the easiest type of pollution to fix.
Also, please like this Facebook page I’ve made for this to show support, raise awareness, be updated on events, and learn how to help.
I will also be running this Tumblr that is similar. It has just been made, but please follow and expect lots of cool things! Let’s all say Lights Out On Light Pollution together. Thank you.