Scientists have issued a stark warning about the ability of humans to see stars in the night sky for the next twenty years. The reason: The increasing light pollution, caused in recent years by the expanding use of LEDs and other lighting fixtures, is leading to the clearing of the sky and the gradual disappearance of the Milky Way in significant parts of the planet.
In an interview with The Guardian, Martin Rees, the British astronomer royalty, said light pollution had become more severe in recent years, especially after 2016, when astronomers reported that a third of humanity could not see the Milky Way with the naked naked eye. According to Rees, the increasing use of LED lights and other light fixtures is causing the night sky to clear at a dramatic rate.
"The night sky is part of our environment, and the next generation may not see it. You don't have to be an astronomer to care. I'm not a bird expert, but if there weren't birds in my garden, I would know something was avoiding me," he added.
Milky Way (Photo: ShutterStock)
Rees is the founder of a multi-party British parliamentary group that recently compiled a report calling for a range of measures to be implemented in the fight against light pollution. The measures include proposals to appoint a minister for the night sky, form a committee and set strict standards for the density and direction of light.
Meanwhile, Christopher Kiba, a scientist at the German Centre for Earth Sciences, said that a child born today in a place where 250 stars are visible in the night sky will only be able to see a hundred stars when he turns 18. "The world we saw two decades ago has almost disappeared. Only the richest, and some of the poorest, now have the experience of stargazing brightly in the night sky. Everyone else can't anymore," he said.
The German scientist said that implementing certain changes in lighting could significantly improve the situation. Among the measures are shielding external lights and adjusting light fixtures downward, limiting the brightness of the lights, and ensuring that the lights are mostly blue and white, but include orange and red components. "These measures can have a huge impact," Kiba explained.
The night sky clears (Photo: ShutterStock)
The main problem today is that light pollution is not yet considered a threat by the public. According to Oscar Corcho of the Polytechnic University of Madrid, "the negative consequences of light pollution are unknown to the population today just as the consequences of smoking were unknown in the 80s."
Apart from the astronomical and cultural effects of light pollution, it also has a significant ecological impact. Sea turtles and migratory birds are guided by the moon. Light pollution confuses them and causes them to lose their way. Insects, the main food source of birds and other animals, are attracted to artificial lights and are immediately killed.
Bright stadium lighting (Photo: Niseko)
In addition, according to Robert Fosbury of the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London (UCL), the bluish emissions from LED lamps involve almost no infrared radiation – with serious consequences. When reddish light shines on our bodies, it triggers mechanisms that include breaking down high blood sugar or increasing melatonin production. Since fluorescent bulbs and then LEDs appeared, this part of the electromagnetic spectrum has been removed from artificial light and I think this has an impact on obesity and an increase in diabetes today."
"It will take enormous effort to transform the planet and make LEDs a friendlier light. But we have to do it because the situation has an extremely detrimental effect on our health," Fosbury added.
- Milky Way
- Light pollution