Light Pollution Masks the Milky Way for a Third of the World’s Population

Jun 11, 2016

By Nicholas St. Fleur

Stargazers from around the globe gathered at the Grand Canyon this week to gander upon our galaxy’s grandeur. The national park is hosting its annual star party, an eight-night event inviting the public to observe the heavens free from blinding city lights and street lamps.

“As the sky gets darker after sunset you start to notice something on the eastern horizon that at first you think are storm clouds,” said John Barentine, an astronomer and program manager at the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit group that raises awareness to light pollution. “Then as it gets darker you realize they aren’t clouds in our atmosphere, but they are glowing clouds of stars.”

What he and thousands of visitors witnessed was a sight hidden to many: The Milky Way.

“One third of humanity cannot see the Milky Way,” said Fabio Falchi a researcher from the nonprofit organization the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Italy. “It is the first time in human history that we have lost the direct contact with the night sky.”


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5 comments on “Light Pollution Masks the Milky Way for a Third of the World’s Population

  • @OP – Stargazers from around the globe gathered at the Grand Canyon this week to gander upon our galaxy’s grandeur. The national park is hosting its annual star party, an eight-night event inviting the public to observe the heavens free from blinding city lights and street lamps.

    In the modern world many people have to get into remote valleys screened by mountains on cloudless nights, in order to see the vast numbers of stars in the sky.
    City dwellers only see a few of the brightest ones and often miss meteorite showers as well.

    Many have never seen the huge band of stars sweeping across the sky, showing an edge-on view of our Milky-way galaxy!



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  • The Australian Outback in vast and uninhabited. The Southern Hemisphere has a slightly better view of the Milky Way. On a moonless night, lying in your swag (Australian bush sleeping bag) the Milky Way fairly blazes across the sky. A stunning sight.



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  • Davd #2

    Lucky bastard.

    North London. I think I’ve seen the moon a couple of times…

    Actually the latest street lighting has much less spill due to physically smaller light sources and more accurate optics and in peripheral towns street lights are often being turned off after midnight. The change is profound.



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  • As for the critters –

    when dusk falls and porch lights are off, yard fences disappear; the stage is now set for fireflies to claim the dewy territory, flashing “come hither!”.



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