Saturday, June 11th, 2016

Light pollution hides Milky Way from one-third of humanity: Study

Narada Desk | June 11, 2016 10:45 am Print
"Light pollution is no longer only a matter for professional astronomers"

The Milky Way is invisible to more than one third of humanity, including 60 per cent of Europeans and nearly 80 per cent of North Americans, a new world atlas of light pollution suggested on Friday.

“Light pollution is no longer only a matter for professional astronomers,” researchers from Italy, Germany, the US and Israel, wrote in a paper in the US journal Science Advances.

The problem “represents a profound alteration of a fundamental human experience — the opportunity for each person to view and ponder the night sky,” said the study.

The new atlas, based on high-resolution satellite data and precision sky brightness measurements, documented a world that is in many places awash with light.

The most light-polluted country is Singapore, where the entire population never experiences conditions resembling true night, it found.

In Western Europe, only small areas of night sky remain relatively undiminished, mainly in Scotland, Sweden, Norway, and parts of Spain and Austria.

On the other hand, countries with populations least affected by light pollution are Chad, the Central African Republic, and Madagascar, with more than three quarters of their people living under pristine, ink-black night sky conditions.

The researchers specifically examined the G20 countries, finding that in terms of area, Italy and South Korea are the most polluted and Canada and Australia the least.

Residents of India and Germany are most likely to be able to see the Milky Way from their home, while those in Saudi Arabia and South Korea are least likely.

In addition, almost half of the US experiences light-polluted nights, despite the vast open spaces of the American west.

Overall, more than 80 percent of people on Earth live under light-polluted skies.