Concern over global light pollution is growing. Astronomers are noticing its growing effect on astronomical observations, just as predicted in prior decades. Our artificial light, much of which is not strictly necessary, is interfering with our science.
But there’s more than just scientific progress at stake. Can humanity afford to block out the opportunities for wonder, awe, and contemplation that the night sky provides?
In a recent study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, an international team of researchers examined the levels of light pollution at astronomical observatories from around the world to better understand how artificial light is impacting night sky observations in hopes of taking steps to reduce it. But how important is it to preserve the scientific productivity of astronomical observatories from the dangers of light pollution, as noted in the study’s opening statement?
The night sky is a part of humanity’s natural heritage. Gazing up at the heavens is a unifying act, performed by almost every human that’s ever lived. Haven’t you looked up at the night sky and felt it ignite your sense of wonder?
But you can’t see much night sky in a modern city. And the majority of humans live in cities now. How can we regain our heritage? Can quiet contemplation make a comeback?