Screenshot via Science Advances
Screenshot via Science Advances

Folks living in Europe and North America are having a harder and harder time getting a clear view of the beautiful night sky. According to a recent study published on Science Advances, light pollution is preventing more than 80% of the world from seeing a clear view of the stars at night. The statistics for people living in the U.S. and Europe are even more stunning: 99% of residents in these regions are living with light pollution. The study uses visibility of the Milky Way as a specific example of how bad light pollution is--nearly 60% of Europeans and 80% of North Americans are unable to see the Milky Way in the night sky.

The advent of the study, The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness, offers a ground-breaking method to track down the world’s light pollution in a comprehensive manner, a tool that scientists haven’t had access to for a long time in the past. The study consists of a detailed set of maps, based on satellite data collected from volunteers around the world, to show the zenith artificial sky brightness as a ratio to the natural sky brightness. All data are analyzed by specially-developed light pollution propagation software.

image via Wall Street Journal
image via Wall Street Journal

“We are now able to know the situation of light pollution all over the world,” Fabio Falchi, the project leader and first author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal. Falchi said this accomplishment is one step further to a previous study conducted by some of the same people, which more focused on the bulky continents rather than remote islands.

It took the team of nine more than six years to finish the project, as some of the authors—including Falchi himself—are not full-time researchers, and have other non-research day jobs. Falchi the team leader, for instance, works as a physics teacher by day. Identified as an amateur astronomer himself, Falchi said that his personal experience seeing the Milky Way motivated him to start what he does.

“…If we think about this in a deeper manner, this is a huge loss,” said Falchi to the Wall Street Journal. “Literature, religion, philosophy, science--of course--the arts, all have roots connected with the contemplation of the night sky.”

screenshot via Science Advances
screenshot via Science Advances


Head over to the Wall Street Journal (subscription needed) for more information about this project.