Measure Light Pollution and Help Save Our Dark Skies

Article written: 5 Mar , 2008
Updated: 26 Dec , 2015
by

It’s a stunning photo… And one we all recognize. At this point in time, more than half of the Earth’s population lives in or near a city and the results shine clearly from space. The crime is not energy consumption, over-population or even global warming. It’s the loss of one of our greatest natural resources… The starry night sky.

Light pollution effects more than just our ability to see the stars at night. Take a walk along the coastlines. It may be hard to believe, but hatching sea turtles aren’t able to get their bearings due to beachfront lighting. Even the aquatic ecosystems are effected! But it’s not just at the waters edge. Birds find it difficult to make
nesting choices and many species have difficulty breeding under over-lighted conditions. Can you imagine how much light changes disturb the habits of nocturnal animals and night-loving plants? Just as important and the Sun shining its life giving light on the Earth, so we are balanced by darkness.

I’m not hear to preach to you about light pollution. Outdoor lighting is used for many reasons, like security, sporting events and even advertising. However, by making just a few small changes – intelligent choices – on how we use that light we can help to preserve the stars for generations to come. You can learn more just by visiting the International Dark Sky Association and taking a few minutes to read.

Right now, you can do science a favour just by taking a few minutes out of your evening and having a look at the night sky from your location. It’s just as easy as finding Orion and counting the stars you see! In a effort to collection information from people the world over, GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) is asking for your help. It’s a great way for teachers, students, parents and even people just like you and me to participate in a real science effort. Visit the G.L.O.B.E. at Night pages for more information and join us in a world-wide effort!


11 Responses

  1. alastair says

    You are using “effect” and “effected” where you *mean* “affect” and “affected”. If you don’t understand the difference between the two, please ask someone to explain it to you or find a dictionary and look them up.

    You have also used “hear” where you meant “here”.

  2. Dark Gnat says

    Wow, the vultures attack!

  3. Cool person says

    alasrair get over it.

  4. Cool person says

    *alastair

  5. Robbo says

    Hey Alastair
    Please leave an input rather than critcism. It is sad you had not a word to add about the topic. Be happy! Peace man!

  6. Member
    Tammy says

    psst!

    “your sloppy with your analysis?” isn’t that spelled you’re?

    now, let’s have a group hug and go out and look at orion!!

  7. Michael says

    I’m afraid that I’m going to have to agree with Alastair.
    While I don’t condemn people who make gramatical errors, I do think that if someone wants me to take their thoughts seriously, they should present them seriously.
    If your sloppy with your writing, why should I not believe your sloppy with your analysis?

  8. Member
    Tammy says

    According to Wikipedia: Please note that although the word “effect” is most commonly found in noun form, it also exists as a verb, and as such is often confused with the word “affect” (itself most commonly a verb, but occasionally found in noun form, especially in the areas of psychology and philosophy).

    In all honesty, I take my writing and my astronomy topics very seriously. The only problem is that I am a flawed old human and not a machine. If you could see the person behind the screen you’d find a dedicated individual who spends an unfathomable amount of time at the keyboard doing public astronomy outreach. If you truly understood how many words come from my fingertips in the course of day, perhaps you’d be more forgiving of an error more worrisome to an English teacher than to a person who is only trying to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for a project.

    Perhaps one of these days I’ll become computer literate enough to use one of those fancy programs that make written text perfect both in spelling and grammar. But, until then? Well… ya’ just gotta’ put up with me the way I yam, Popeye….

    Just another imperfect voice in the night!

  9. alastair says

    @Tammy:
    Erm, yeah, thanks for the Wikipedia link, but that just reinforces my case, I’m afraid. You should correct your article. I don’t know why you didn’t, actually, since it would have been less work than writing the comment you posted.

    @Everyone:
    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people writing material for one of the web’s largest astronomy/space websites to take some care with their spelling and grammar. You don’t need a spell checker or a grammar checker, just some pride in your work.

    Moreover, when someone points out a mistake, the right thing to do is to correct it and carry on. It’s ridiculous to criticise the person pointing out the mistake; most likely, as in this case, all they were trying to do was to help improve the original article.

    On the specific point of “affect” versus “effect”, do you really suppose that not correcting this article would be a good thing? All that would do IMO is increase the level of confusion of anyone who was already in doubt as to which was which.

  10. Please , please do not bicker about trivia. Light pollution is just a symptom of the unsustainable 24 hour day which we now realise is killing off Life On Earth. You can learn of some of the “hidden” insidious harm being done at http://www.lightpollution.org.uk Nocturnal birds are in steep decline like whip-poor-wills in the USA and night jars in Europe. LP sucks insects from habitat areas like a vacuum cleaner. No bugs, I hear you all say – great. Actually NOT great. Bugs are at the base of the food chain. Without bugs to eat then t birds, bat and other insectivorous creatures starve. It is destroying circadian rhythms (body clocks) in flora, fauna and us – human beings. There is no mystery and it is not even rocket science . It is just observational common sense. Open your eyes and do not be blinded by the light at night. It wastes money and it kills. There can be no equivocation.

  11. Colin Henshaw says

    Light pollution is an insidious form of pollution that does not just annoy astronomers. The astronomers were like the caged canaries that were once used in mines to detect carbon monoxide and methane. Because they were affected by it they were the first to complain. But light pollution does not just affect the night skies, as this excellent web-site has demonstrated. In 1994 I pointed out that lighting world-wide has been sweeping up insects for decades, and that being the case, it would have a concomitant effect on higher order consumers such as birds, bats, other small mammals, spiders, reptiles and amphibians. It also affects plants, as there will be fewer insects to pollinate them, and that this will amplify the already deteriorating positive feedback cycle by providing even less food for the insects to feed on. Environmental organisations are now telling us that there have been major declines in common species over the past forty years that correlate negatively with the expansion of street, security, commercial and decorative lighting over the past forty or fifty years. The connection between the decimation of insects and lighting needs to be recognised by all groups concerned with the environment and they should now vigorously campaign against it. Lighting does not reduce crime, as has been shown in New Zealand and elsewhere, where criminality dropped almost to zero during power cuts. Some lighting, of course, is necessary, but it should be used sparingly, where needed, when needed, and in the correct amounts. It should not to be obtrusive to neighbours and should not to pose a hazard to the environment. Reducing light pollution in the long term, then, will be beneficial to us all, as it will substantially reduce energy wastage, save money and contribute less to global warming and climate change.

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