Stargazing + light pollution

Back to Article
Back to Article

Stargazing + light pollution

Thanh-Truc (Jo) Nguyen, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Stars are some of the most beautiful, natural occurrences in the universe. However, more and more people are moving into cities, which means that roughly 75% of people in the cities have never seen pristine, dark skies.

Just over a 100 years ago, people could walk outside and look up at the breathtaking Milky Way Galaxy’s arches. These skies have inspired some of history’s greatest minds like Shakespeare, Van Gogh, and Holst. This all changed with the introduction of artificial lights. The quick universal adoption of artificial light has brought up a new issue for society: light pollution.

Light pollution is excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive artificial (usually outdoor) light. It has various consequences other than washing out starlight. It also disrupts ecosystems, has negative health effects on humans, and wastes energy.

The excess light poses a serious threat to nocturnal animals because they have been adapted to living and hunting in the dark. Studies have shown the glares from artificial lights have impacted wetland frogs’ reproduction activities. These frogs croak during the nighttime as a breeding ritual, but they are mistaking human artificial light as natural sunlight and not croaking as usual.

A similar case is happening to baby sea turtles who hatch on the beaches and crawl their way to the ocean. They get to the ocean by following the moonlight. Sadly, the artificial lights on or near their hatching sites draw them away from the ocean. In Florida alone, millions of baby sea turtles die every year due to the light pollution,

Light pollution is not just affecting wildlife, being constantly surrounded by light takes a toll on humans as well. People rely on natural body cycles called circadian rhythms and the production of melatonin. Both of these process are determined by light and darkness. When humans are exposed to light while they are sleeping, the natural production of melatonin is suppressed; thereby, causing sleeping disorders and other health problems such as increased headaches, worker fatigue, and medically defined stress.

Light pollution is wasting energy and money. People do not need to have their homes illuminated all night long. Using more lighting than one needs is also increasing carbon footprint.

To help reduce light pollution, all people need to do is be aware of how much light they are using and use only the minimum that they need. It is as simple as flipping a switch.