I remember gazing at the stars with my mom when I was a kid. She pointed out the Milky Way and a number of constellations. She told me, “there are way too many stars to count!” Now, 50 years later, when I walk outside and look up, I see only a few identifiable constellations, no Milky Way, and I would venture to say there were so few stars that if I took a little time, I could count them all. Are there really fewer stars in the heavens? Not at all. The stars are up there, they just cannot be seen by the naked eye from the vast majority of heavily populated vantage points anymore. The culprit, I learned, is called “Light Pollution”.
According to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), light pollution is “the unnatural luminescence created by a combination of urban sky glow, glare and light trespass” (Petersen). What that means is that the artificial lighting of nighttime hours has created a bright halo, or “glow”, over urban and some rural areas, eliminating the natural state of total darkness. The “glare” refers to horizontal light that shines directly into one’s eyes. “Light trespass” involves unwanted artificial light spilling onto and into property (from floodlights, security lights, street lights) that would otherwise be dark (IDA). Astronomers were the first to notice this problem 30 years ago when they became frustrated as sky glow began impairing their ability to see the stars (Bower).
Since Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent light bulb in 1879, people have been lighting up the night in ever-increasing ways and intensities. As a result of this human-manufactured illumination, in her article, Our Vanishing Night, Verlyn Klinkenborg shares, “In most cities, the sky looks as thoug...
... middle of paper ...
International Dark-Sky Association. International Dark-Sky Association. 2011.Web. 22 Nov. 2011
Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “Our Vanishing Night”. National Geographic. National Geographic
Magazine, Nov. 2008. Web. 22. Nov. 2011.
Milbourn, Todd. “Truckee Fears Its Star Power Is In Peril”. Sacramento Bee. (2008). Web.
2 Nov. 2011.
Navara, K.J. and Nelson, R.J. “The Dark Side of Light at Night: Physiological,
Epidemiological, and Ecological Consequences”. Journal of Pineal Research, 2007: 43
(215-224). Wiley Online Library. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.
Petersen, Aili. “NIGHT LIGHTS”. American Scientist 89.1(2001): 24. Gale Opposing
Viewpoints in Context. Web. 2 Nov. 2011.
Spivey, Angela. “Light at Night and Breast Cancer Risk Worldwide”. Environmental Health
Perspectives, 118. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 2010: A525(1).
Web. 14 Nov. 2011.
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