It is getting more and more difficult to see the stars

Hong Kong at night. Not ideal for stargazing.
picture: Lam Yik Fai (Getty Images)

A team of researchers investigated tens of thousands of Citizen science observations of the night sky have found that the stars in the night sky are rapidly becoming more difficult to see due to human light pollution.

The team examined more than 51,351 observations made around the world from 2011 to 2022 as part of its Globe at Night project Managed by NOIRLab. They found that the stars are becoming more and more difficult to see, which the researchers suggest is due to the spread of human light pollution in the past decade.

aAccording to the analysis, the night sky has gotten 9.6% brighter each year from 2011 to 2022, which means some of the fainter stars will disappear completely for many stargazers. The study states that “a site with 250 visible stars will see this number drop to 100 visible stars over the same period.” search published Today in Science.

The main discovery is that star vision is declining at a remarkably rapid rate—“Faster than we expected based on satellite data and population growth, for example,” Christopher Kyba, a researcher at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, said in an email to Gizmodo. “It’s a sign that the existing efforts to control light so far are not working, at least when viewed at continental levels.”

Human light causes a “heavenly glow, radiance of the night sky, that Makes it difficult on ground basis Observers see the most distant (and often faintest) light from stars. The team noted that the advent of LED (light-emitting diode) lamps may have contributed to the increase in light pollution.

“Since LEDs allow more light to be produced for the same amount of energy, one result of their development has been increased light use,” Kyba said. While the issue is primarily human’s overuse of LEDs, rather than the lights themselves, Kyba added that “the method they use to produce white ends up emitting a lot of blue light, and blue light is the most problematic for sky brightness.”

A graphic showing how star visibility changes with the amount of light on the ground.

To better track what sort of light is contributing to skyglow, Kyba’s team has create an app For citizen scientists, amateur astronomers, and other interested parties to calculate and classify light sources. Nightlights app is free and accessible here.

Fabio Falchi, a physicist specializing in light pollution at the University of Santiago de Compostela and member of the Institute of Light Pollution Science and Technology, and Salvador Parra, a researcher at the university, write a point of view. Article to accompany analysis.

Perhaps the most important message for the scientific community to derive from Kyba et al. The study is that light pollution is increasing, despite countermeasures allegedly put into operation to reduce it, they wrote. “Awareness of artificial light at night has to increase dramatically so that it is not always seen as a positive thing, but as the pollutant that it really is.”

Kyba suggested that using only the necessary amount of light to know where and when it is needed would be a good step in reducing light pollution, as well as avoiding very cold white lights and those that produce ultraviolet light.

Besides harming our ability to observe the night sky, light pollution can have harmful effects on life on Earth. Objects based on regular light patterns can suffer When artificial light is introduced to their environment.

light sources in orbitIncluding satellite constellations Like Elon Musk’s Starlink—it has also proven to be a troublesome problem for astronomers.

Exactly how to manage light sources in the future is still not known, but clearly something needs to be done – both for our world. To see the light behind him.

More: Will Unistellar’s anti-light pollution telescopes let you see stars even in city lights?

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