The original dark sky story in the video below first aired on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas on September 2, 2013.
MYSTERY WIRE — Ever since humans first walked the Earth, we have been able to look up at night and see the moon, planets, stars, and even galaxies in the night sky. That was until we figured out how to light up the night.
What once was a starry night sky is now polluted by man-made light. A change brought on just in the last 150 years. The invention of the light bulb did make nights safer from crime and less frightening, but it has come at a cost.
Scientists who study the affects of living with too much man-made light say not having enough darkness is harming us and the planet.
SEEING THE LIGHT POLLUTION
Energy used to light up the night normally comes from large power plants which not only produce air pollution, but in turn also produce light pollution.
According to the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) light pollution is leading to generations of people who have never seen the Milky Way because of light beaming out of cities.
The IDA writes that increased use of powered light at night increases energy consumption, disrupts the ecosystem and wildlife, harms human health, and also affects crime and safety.
How Bad is Light Pollution?
A question often asked is how much light pollution there really is on Earth. In a 2016 study for Science Advances, an international team of researchers created the most detailed atlas yet of light pollution around the world. They estimate that the Milky Way is no longer visible to fully one-third of humanity – including 60 percent of Europeans and 80 percent of Americans.
Artificial light from cities has created a permanent “skyglow” at night, obscuring our view of the stars. Skyglow is one of four types of light pollution outlined by the IDA.
- Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort
- Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas
- Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed
- Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources
WHERE TO FIND DARK SKY
Death Valley National Park in California is well known for being a dark sky location. Park rangers hold dark sky night events to encourage people to visit and see the night sky in its true beauty. But Death Valley is not considered the darkest spot on Earth or even the United States.
Darker spots, according to the National Park Service (NPS), include the Colorado Plateau, a region of the Southwest covering parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. National parks in this area include Capital Reef, Mesa Verde, Arches and Canyonlands.
Of the western European countries, Scotland, Sweden and Norway remain among the darkest locations according to the NPS. Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates are among the most light-polluted countries in the world.
The National Park Service also has a Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division and is viewed worldwide as a leader in the protection of dark night skies.
“Few places on earth offer pristine dark views to the rising Milky Way and starry constellations and light pollution is a bright filter upon this vast canvas,” said NPS scientist Dan Dursicoe. “Verification of NPS ground measurements with satellite data from NOAA creates an accurate model for predicting night sky quality in national parks and locations around the world, which can be used to increase opportunities for park visitors and stargazers to enjoy this rare and diminishing resource.”
DECREASING LIGHT POLLUTION
So what can be done to fix the problem of light pollution without giving up too much of what we’ve come to expect living in a modern society? It turns out there’s quite a bit that can change.
Some cities, like parts of Las Vegas, known as the brightest place on Earth, have begun installing street lights that are shorter and block much of the light from shining up.
As evidence of the dangers of too much light pollution piles up, more cities are doing similar things to cut down on light pollution. “We’re definitely seeing a growing interest in night sky protection,” Scott Kardel, the public affairs director for the International Dark-Sky Association told vox.com in a 2016 interview.
Park managers and local governments can apply to be “international dark-sky places.” For communities like Sedona, Arizona that have applied, it means following tight lighting codes at night which might even include dimming or shutting off some lights.
Worldwide dark skies will never again be seen while modern humans are here. But there is a large push around the world to do better.
“The disappearance of the night sky is tied up in our ever more fast-paced world,” Amanda Gormley of the International Dark-Sky Association told National Geographic in 2019. “We lose something essential; we lose a part of ourselves when we lose access to the night sky. We lose that sense of stillness and awe that should be right over our heads every night.”
Author Paul Bogard wrote the book on dark skies and the affects losing it are having on us. “Light itself is not bad light is miraculous,” Bogard told Mystery Wire. “Wonderful, oftentimes very beautiful, it’s just that we’re using so much of it and unnecessary amounts.”
“Darkness is really important for us in many ways. It’s important to our our body, our physical health, our mental and psychological, even spiritual health. It’s important for the environment in which we live.”Paul Bogard, Author – The End of Night