Stars to become invisible in two decades due to light pollution
The view of the Milky Way in the night sky is being obscured by the increased use of light-emitting diodes, which is also taking a toll on the health of humans and wildlife
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Scientists have warned that the ability of humans to see the cosmos in the night sky may vanish in just 20 years because of light pollution.
“The night sky is part of our environment and it would be a major deprivation if the next generation never got to see it, just as it would be if they never saw a bird’s nest,” said Martin Rees, the British astronomer royal, while speaking to The Guardian.
“You don’t need to be an astronomer to care about this. I am not an ornithologist but if there were no songbirds in my garden, I’d feel impoverished,” he added.
In the last few years, the issue of light pollution has rapidly worsened, especially since 2016 when it was reported by astronomers that the Milky Way is no longer visible to almost a third of the population, as per Rees.
Scientists stated that the increasing light pollution is now brightening up the night sky at a rate of around 10 per cent per year.
No cosmos for future generations
A child who is born in a place where 250 stars are currently visible in the night sky would be able to see only 100 by the time they reach the age of 18, stated Christopher Kyba, of the German Centre for Geosciences.
“A couple of generations ago, people would have been confronted regularly with this glittering vision of the cosmos – but what was formerly universal is now extremely rare. Only the world’s richest people, and some of the poorest, experience that anymore. For everybody else, it’s more or less gone,” Kyba added.
He further argued that the introduction of some changes to lighting can make a considerable improvement. These steps would include shielding outdoor lights and pointing them downwards, limiting the brightness of lights, and ensuring that they are not predominantly blue-white but have red and orange components. “Measures like that would have an enormous impact,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Prof Robert Fosbury, of the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London (UCL) claimed that bluish emissions of LEDs entirely lack any red or near-infrared light. “We are becoming starved of red and infra-red light and that has serious implications,” he stated.
“When reddish light shines on our bodies, it stimulates mechanisms including those that break down high levels of sugar in the blood or boost melatonin production. Since the introduction of fluorescent lighting and later LEDs, that part of the spectrum has been removed from artificial light and I think it is playing a part in the waves of obesity and the rise in diabetes cases we see today,” Fosbury added.
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