Why can´t we see the stars? The Reason: Skyglow

Lea Heming

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Just about 100 years ago, it was possible to see the milky way at night from wherever you were. But why aren`t we even able to see the stars at night anymore, when we are living in a bigger city? The reason for this is a problem most people aren’t even aware of: Skyglow. One component of light pollution.

Skyglow Light Pollution
Skyglow Light Pollution

 

What is Light Pollution?

Basically, light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light. This phenomenon is a side effect of the industrial civilization. Today, around 80% of humanity is affected by light pollution. In Europe and the United States, it’s even 99%. This means, that at night, these populations are not able to experience the natural light of stars.

Cause for the light pollution is the fact that our atmosphere reflects a lot of our emitted light. Light pollution itself consists of different components. These are:

  • The Glare – The excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort
  • The Skyglow – The brightening of the night sky over cities
  • The Light trespass – The light that falls where it is not intended or needed
  • The Clutter – The bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources

The reason for us not being able to see the milky way or even the stars anymore, is the Skyglow. You may have seen the glow over a city when you took a road trip. The Skyglowproject and the International Dark Sky Assosiation are dedicated to protect the night-time environment and are trying to raise the awareness of the risks of light pollution and Skyglow.

This Video gives you an insight of how a look in the night sky could feel, if we would reduce Light pollution:

Death Valley Dreamlapse 1 – Gavin Heffernan

But why exactly is light pollution a problem? Beside the fact that we don’t see the pretty milky way or the stars anymore, of course. This phenomenon is affecting our environment, our energy consumption and our health.

 

What are the Consequences?

Environment: Light pollution is a serious threat to animals that use stars and our sun as navigation. The Light that is emitted by our cities confuses them and causes especially birds to leave the routes they take while flying to the south. The biggest threat the light pollution causes concerns the nautical life. The light zones of waters and seas are shifting and recent studies are concerned about the growth of algae due to the increased light. Like all plants, algae growth is influenced by light.

Energy Consumption: Lightning is responsible for one-fourth of all electricity consumption worldwide. Since we are so used to an unnecessary amount of light, we also tend to overuse it wherever we are.

Health Threats: As studies showed, the risk of headaches, worker fatigue, stress and increased anxiety rises when we are exposed to over-illumination. Also, light pollution is one reason why many people struggle with sleeping problems. This leads to even more health risks, like an increased risk of having a heart attack.

 

What can we do?

The good news is, that unlike most other forms of pollution, light pollution is reversible. Starting by minimizing the light your own home emits at night is a good beginning and is beneficial for your health too. Here are some ideas what you can do:

  • Use lightning only if and where it’s needed
  • Motion detector lights are a great solution to reduce light emitting and they can save you a lot of money
  • Keep your blinds drawn at night to keep light inside

But what do you think has to be the first step? Vote in our poll and comment your ideas below!

 

 

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Lea Heming

  • Patrick La Rocca

    What a great article, i like it. More!

    • Thanks a lot for you feedback!
      Is there anything else you want us to cover? Let us know!