Light, it’s all around us. Residents in intensely populated areas are accustomed to the constant illumination from artificial street lights and blazing bright highways. While a constant supply of light can be useful, it also can be harmful. A typical city-lit sky is a hundred times brighter than a sky in a natural environment. With a world so full of man-made light, the generational perception of night has changed.
The popular topic of poets, artists, philosophers and scientists, the sky is an unexplored frontier inspiring awe and possibility. Once packed with extraterrestrial beauty and complexity, the sky’s performance appears dark for most viewers in populated areas. This altered light-filled existence is affecting mental health, circadian rhythm and wildlife behavior creating an unhealthy dependency to blue light.
Nocturnal creatures are at a high risk of their sleep patterns being altered as a result of too much light. Animals with night hours as their active periods are being disrupted quite radically in light polluted areas as the once dark nighttime becomes bright with artificial light. Newly born sea turtles, once attracted to the ocean by the glow of the moon and stars are now being lured away from their home. Artificial light is confusing their natural instinct and driving them away from the sea causing millions to die each year. Birds with a dependency for astronomical navigation when embarking on their bi-annual migrations will experience trouble navigating the skies with the stars being drastically dimmer in populated areas. Birds are also particularly attracted to heavily lit infrastructure therefore causing them to collide and meet a fatal end.
It’s not just animals who suffer from constant light pollution. Humans experience terrible health effects from too much light during the typical night hours. Circadian rhythm, the human sleep-wake cycle, is disrupted causing a decrease in melatonin, a necessary hormone which aides in immune system function. Excessive exposure to blue-light such as street and private resident lights impairs effective sky viewing while damaging necessary human functions.
It is easy to take steps to work towards a darker sky. The International Dark-Sky Association has a list of officially approved products that will reduce skyglow and excessive blue light. Placing motion sensors on lights with manual switches in outdoor areas can also help with reducing unnecessary light by illuminating areas by their need. Street lights are necessary on roads with high traffic however lights with a domed design are helpful with focusing light in a chosen area without adding light to the starry sky above
By taking the necessary steps toward creating a more visible sky above us is important for health and the poetical inspiration. If you are interested seeing a more visible sky, the International Dark Sky Association has an approved list of areas near you that you can visit to improve your viewing. All it takes to turn on precious star viewing, is to turn down the terrestrial lights.
By: Katelyn Goetten
The International Dark Sky Association has many educational posts on topics pertaining to light pollution and its effect on the environment. It also has a map that can locate the approved dark-sky viewing areas near you.
SKYGLOW is created by two artists who complied pictures of beautiful night skies to gain exposure of the threat of light pollution.
The Sea Turtle Conservancy works to spread awareness on the the effect light pollution has on newly hatched sea turtles. They also offer solutions to excess light near beaches wear sea turtles typically nest.