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Stars disappearing before our eyes faster than ever: report

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A new research from a citizen science program suggests that stars are disappearing before our eyes at an "astonishing rate."

The analysis by Globe at Night (LINK) stated that human eyes can see thousands of stars on a clear, dark night but – due to light pollution – about 30 per cent of people in the world cannot see the Milky Way galaxy and the constellations that should be visible to them.

According to the analysis by the program, which is run by U.S.-based public health and safety organization NSF and its astronomy centre, NOIRLab, light pollution is so bad that about 80 per cent of Americans are "robbed" of the view of the galaxy and other celestial sights.

According to the research published in the journal Science, the problem is getting rapidly worse as light pollution increases more quickly than is revealed by satellite measurements of Earth’s brightness at night.

“At this rate of change, a child born in a location where 250 stars were visible would be able to see only abound 100 by the time they turned 18,” said Christopher Kyba, a researcher at the German Research Centre for Geosciences and lead author of the paper, detailing the results of the study.

No accurate measurements have been well-documented about the sky brightness over the time, researchers said, despite that light pollution has been a well-recognized issue.

Those behind the recent report said they looked at more than 50,000 observations submitted to Globe at Night since 2011. Their review indicated the sky is likely brightening more quickly in developing countries, where artificial lighting is growing at a higher rate.

Research also found that sky brightness increased by 9.6 per cent per year in the past decade. This is much higher than the roughly two per cent per year global increase of earth brightness measured by satellites.

Researchers say that existing satellites are not able to measure what they call "skyglow" as the human eye sees it. And the discrepancy is increasing with the usage of white LEDs in high-efficiency outdoor lighting.

“Since human eyes are more sensitive to these shorter wavelengths at nighttime, LED lights have a strong effect on our perception of sky brightness,” said Kyba. “This could be one of the reasons behind the discrepancy between satellite measurements and the sky conditions reported by Globe at Night participants.”

In addition to blocking the view and presenting challenges to astronomical study, scientists warn that light pollution has impacts on human heath and wildlife.

"It disrupts the cyclical transition from sunlight to starlight that biological systems have evolved alongside," researchers said.

"Furthermore, the loss of visible stars is a poignant loss of human cultural heritage. Until relatively recently, humans throughout history had an impressive view of the starry night sky, and the effect of this nightly spectacle is evident in ancient cultures, from the myths it inspired to the structures that were built in alignment with celestial bodies."

 

Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta.

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