Around the world, the night sky is vanishing in a fog of artificial light, which a coalition of naturalists, astronomers and medical researchers consider one of the fastest growing forms of pollution, with consequences for wildlife, people’s health — and the human spirit.
About two-thirds of the world’s population, including almost everyone in the continental U.S. and Europe, no longer see a starry sky where they live. For much of the world, it never even gets dark enough for human eyes to adjust to night vision, reported an international team that mapped the geography of night lighting.
“Our children grow without seeing what is possibly the most extraordinary natural wonder,” says Italian astronomer Fabio Falchi, one of several U.S. and Italian researchers who used military satellite images to compile the first comprehensive global atlas of night-sky brightness — a 2001 orbital survey published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
A natural nightscape has become as rare as an unspoiled wilderness. In Borrego Springs, CA, a small town surrounded by 600,000 acres of desert in California’s largest state park, the midnight sky is a tourist attraction. On a clear night, the curtain of stars almost seems to brush the ground.