Stars are disappearing before our eyes faster than previously thought, with nearly a third of people around the world now unable to see any, according to new research.
Although the unaided human eye should be able to see several thousand stars on a clear, dark night, our view of our home galaxy – the Milky Way – and dozens of complex constellations is rapidly fading.
Due to light pollution, an estimated 30% of people worldwide are deprived of night vision.
The startling figure comes from an analysis by a citizen science program called Globe at Night, which published its findings in the journal Science.
NOIRLab, an American research center for nocturnal astronomy, runs the study, which projects that a child born today in a place where 250 stars are visible will see only 100 by the time they are 18 years old. will be able to see
Astronomer Connie Walker said the findings “underscore the importance of redoubling our efforts” to protect the nighttime sky from a phenomenon dubbed “skyglow”.
What is celestial aura?
Skyglow refers to the illumination of the night sky from natural sources, such as stars or the moon.
This has long been known to be a problem, but observations from Globe at Night show that it is growing faster than satellite measurements of Earth’s nighttime brightness show.
The study is based on crowdsourced reports from around the world, with people submitting their findings online.
They are then shown a number of star maps and record which one best matches what they can see in the sky, which is estimated as the “limiting magnitude to the naked eye”. known as
It is a measure of how bright an object must be to be seen, and approximates the brightness of celestial bodies.
The Globe at Night results are based on more than 50,000 observations submitted from Europe and North America between 2011 and 2022.
Why should we worry?
Light pollution not only spoils the view of the sky, but can also affect our health and wildlife.
That’s because it disrupts the natural cyclical transition from sunlight to starlight that we and other organisms have evolved with – and the sky glow is anything but natural.
Humans have generally seen awe-inspiring starry night skies throughout history, but the path we’re on means an ever-increasing number of people are missing out.
The loss of stars visible by the Globe at Night has increased the brightness of the sky by 9.6 percent annually over the past decade, far more than the 2 percent measured by satellites.
“This shows that current satellites are not enough to study how the Earth’s night is changing,” said study lead author Christopher Kiba, German Research Center for Geosciences.
And while the new findings focus on the Western world, the paper notes that the sky is brightening more rapidly in developing countries, where the spread of artificial light is growing at a faster rate.
“The increase in sky brightness over the past decade underscores the importance of redoubling our efforts and developing new strategies to protect dark skies,” said Connie Walker.
“The Globe at Night dataset is indispensable in our ongoing assessment of changes in sky brightness, and we encourage everyone who can to get involved to help protect the starry night sky.”
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