Do you remember your childhood fascination with the sky? As the sun would set, a beautiful ombre of red, pink, and orange hues burst over your head. As this light-show faded, the sky washed away into a dark, midnight blue dream. If you looked a bit closer, and waited a little longer, you noticed the moon lightening up the darkest of streets; tiny bits of light pierced the dark sky, and twinkled until the sun peaked, once again.
Nowadays, as I point my chin up to the sky, I find myself squinting, in search for those bright, illuminating stars that once brought me a sense of joy, and cosmic wonder. Those twinkling stars I once pointed to… where have they gone? It is as if someone had chosen to dim their light forever.
As the years progress, our skies seem to simultaneously become dimmer and faded. The stars and cosmic nebulas may never leave their positions, but light pollution has played a major role in the distortion of the once- clear night sky.
Light pollution is defined as the brightening of the night sky by the lights used by man. Such lights include streetlights, city lights, bright LED lights; any kind of reflection of light will inevitably reflect onto the sky, causing the distorted image of a dusty, unclear and murky sky.
Many may argue that the excessive usage of such bright lights is necessary in order to maintain safe streets. However, this mindset is also being used when lightening and embellishing large buildings. The more lights that are actively being used affect the darkness of our sky, causing it to appear gray, resulting in light distortion amongst the stars. According to the Guardian, the one third of humanity can no longer see the Milky Way from their homes. It is becoming almost impossible to watch our night sky in urban areas due to artificial lightning.
Orion constellation- left from a dark sky, and right from Utah. This image shows the severity of light-pollution and the effects it has on our sky over time.
Some areas of the world, such as the United Kingdom, have taken care of reserves that are certified by the International Dark Sky Association, a non-profit organization that assists in protecting the night skies and encourages a halt on light pollution. These areas have very low light-pollution, which allow individuals to view the beauty of the cosmos.
As more organizations become aware of this issue, various solutions are becoming more available. Shielded streetlights, switching lights off that illuminate buildings, and motion-activated lights are some of those solutions. To implement these improvements, we must inform one another of the severity of the issue, and if we do not act fast, we may not be able to see our childhood stars again.