Make a wish upon a star — while you still can.
Scientists are warning that due to light pollution, human’s ability to see the cosmos at night could be wiped out in just 20 years.
“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,” Martin Rees, the British astronomer royal, told 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.”
Light pollution conditions have rapidly worsened in the last several years, including since 2016 when astronomers reported that the Milky Way was no longer visible to a third of humanity, according to Rees.
Scientists told the outlet that light pollution is now causing the night sky to brighten at a rate of about 10% per year.
A child born in an area were 250 stars are visible at night today would only be able to see about 100 by the time they reach 18, Christopher Kyba, of the German Centre for Geosciences, dauntingly revealed.
“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 any more. For everybody else, it’s more or less gone,” Kyba said.
Though light pollution has been a longstanding issue for half a century, the latest burgeon of the problem can be reportedly traced to the increased use of light-emitting diodes (LED) and other forms of intense night-time lighting.
Other than the aesthetic loss of our stars, light pollution poses several other ecological dangers.
In 2019, scientists found that the issue is contributing to an “insect apocalypse” — light has a major impact on how bug species move, search for food, reproduce, grow and hide from predators.
Light pollution confuses sea turtles and migrating birds, who are guided by moonlight.
Darker nights also provide cover for crime and other dangerous situations for humans, researchers note.
But there could be a simple fix to light pollution.
Rees and his team of researchers are pushing their 2020 report that outlines several policies to help diminish the illumination, including appointing a minister for dark skies, creating a commission for dark skies and setting strict standards for the density and direction of lighting.
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