Light pollution rapidly reducing the number of stars you’re able to see in night sky

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Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 9:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Light pollution or artificial light at night is rapidly reducing the number of stars you’re able to see when looking up into the night sky.

Scientists from NOIRLab say if the trend continues, it’s just a matter of time before you won’t be able to see constellations like Orion’s Belt with the naked eye.

“The new study was really surprising, to find that light pollution is being grown globally at 10% per year,” said Ruskin Hartley the International Director of Dark Sky Association.

Researchers say this problem has been growing for years, but that percentage is drastically larger than expected.

“We knew it was bad, we thought it was maybe 2.2% per year, this new study is shocking,” said Hartley.

After relying on satellite measurements for years, Connie Walker, Scientist at NOIRLab, said they learned the measurements were inaccurate.

She said LED wavelengths are so small that satellites can’t pick up the measurements.

As you go to smaller wavelengths, you get bluer light. So, the blue is totally absent from the data from the satellites,” said Walker. “They don’t see that growth in LEDs over the last decade or so, so that’s not an accurate measurement.”

Scientists then took to the human eye, utilizing more than 50,000 observations from people around the world.

The Globe at Night Study learned over the past 11 years, LED lights are a huge part of the problem.

“It’s the type of LED people use, If your LEDs are too blue, you’re going to get this raise in nighttime brightness,” said Walker.

As population grows and more buildings are going up, the International Dark Sky Association said we need to step back and make some changes to save the stars.

“Really it is about using lights more thoughtfully at night while minimizing the impact on the environment,” said Hartley.

Leaders in southern Arizona have been proactive.

“I think people in southern Arizona in Tucson in particular realize the night sky is something that’s special, something that needs to be protected, because we both take wonder from it, it’s a source of inspiration,” said Hartley.

He said it also brings southern Arizona a lot of money.

“It’s also an economic driver, pumping billions of dollars a year into the economy here in Arizona. Because of that city counselors have taken steps to protect it, passing protection ordinances, lighting ordinances saying simple things like we should point the light down on the ground where we need it not up into the sky.”

Harley added we can always do more.

“Parking lot, after parking lot, car dealership to car dealership, no one is around but the lights are blaring brightly,” said Hartley. “Not only is that changing the quality of the night sky but we’re wasting energy.”

Walker said making changes at home can help the solution.

Light only when you need it, use timers motion sensors things like that. Place the lights only where you need them. If you have too many lights, take some out, don’t use them all,” said Walker.

If you want to use LED lights because they’re energy efficient, make sure to check the box to insure they’re warmer. That will help reduce the artificial glow.