Skyglow pollution is separating us from the stars but also killing earth knowledge and species


It’s not only star gazing that’s in jeopardy. Culture, wildlife and other scientific advancements are being threatened by mass light infrastructure that is costing cities billions of dollars a year as it expands alongside exponential population growth.

Some researchers call light pollution cultural genocide. Generations of complex knowledge systems, built by Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders upon a once-clear view of the Milky Way, are being lost.

In the natural world, the mountain pygmy possum, a marsupial native to Australia, is critically endangered. Its main food source, the bogong moth, is being affected by artificial outdoor lighting messing with its migration patterns. Sea turtles are exhibiting erratic nesting and migration behaviours due to lights blasting from new coastal developments.

So how bright does our future look under a blanket of light?

“If you go to Mount Coot-tha, basically the highest point in Brisbane, every streetlight you can see from up there is a waste of energy,” Downs says. “Why is light going up and being wasted into the atmosphere? There’s no need for it.”


Around the world, one in three people can’t see the Milky Way at night because their skies are excessively illuminated. Four in five people live in towns and cities that emit enough light to limit their view of the stars. In Europe, that figure soars to 99%.

Blame skyglow – the unnecessary illumination of the sky above, and surrounding, an urban area. It’s easy to see it if you travel an hour from a city, turn around, then look back towards its centre.


Artificial lights at night cause skyglow in two ways: spill and glare. Light spills from a bulb when it trespasses beyond the area intended to be lit, while glare is a visual sensation caused by excessive brightness.

Streetlights contribute hugely to this skyglow and have been causing astronomers anxiety for decades.


Source: Blinded by the light: how skyglow pollution is separating us from the stars | Queensland | The Guardian

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