Environment

The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness

One of the most basic human impulses, to look up and ponder the night sky is becoming compromised for the majority of the world’s population, according to a recent study published in the Journal Science Advances. Using the latest available technology, researchers around the world have collaborated in creating an up-to-date World Atlas illustrating the geographical spread of night sky brightness. Scientists have observed that artificial skyglow is the most visible effects of light pollution – the brightening of the sky cased by street lights, building and other human-made sources. This is inhibiting the naked human eye from observing the Milky Way in highly populated areas. The study shows, “due to light pollution, the Milky Way is not visible to more than one-third of humanity, including 60% of Europeans and nearly 80% of North Americans.” Combining the data collected from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), Day/Night Band (DNB) new precision charge-coupled device (CCD), brightness measurements and a new database of Sky Quality Meter (SQM) Scientist have managed to create the most accurately up-to-date Atlas on the visible effects of light pollution around the globe. The Atlas demonstrates their findings “found that about 83% of the world’s population and more than 99% of the U.S. and European populations live under light-polluted skies”.   According to their findings, Singapore is the most light polluted country, where the problem is so prevalent ‘the entire population lives under skies so bright that the eye cannot fully dark-adapt to night vision”. These findings are subject to a number of factors, including but not limited to time of night (this study was conducted at 1am), proximity to geographical landscapes (such as volcanoes), tidal patterns and weather conditions (factoring in the reflective capabilities of snow). In addition scientist also highlight the shift from high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting to white light-emitting diode (LED). The bluer colour temperature of LED lighting is contributing to the problem of light pollution. For those that wish to observe the nights sky unaffected by light pollution there are fewer and fewer land based locations available to contemplate the mysteries of the galaxy.