Amazing Places

A Full 80% of North America Can No Longer See The Milky Way

In very dark places, you can look up at the night sky and see a shimmering band of stars reaching from one horizon to the other. This is Earth's view of the Milky Way, the galaxy our solar system calls home. If you've seen it, count yourself lucky: due to light pollution, the Milky Way is disappearing from more and more of the planet's skies. A recent study published in Science Advances found that the galaxy is hidden from 80 percent of North America and 60 percent of Europe. Certain places have it even worse: the skies are so bright in Singapore, Kuwait, and Qatar that the human eye can't fully dark-adapt to night vision. Though not everyone considers light to be a form of pollution, it can cause havoc on the environment in similar ways to pollution in the air and water. Artificial light can disrupt plants' seasonal cycles and birds' migratory schedules, not to mention our own biological clocks. It also disconnects us from nature itself. Dan Duriscoe, a researcher on the study, told NPR: "In the daytime, you might go to the Grand Canyon and be disappointed if there was a veiling haze in front of your view. The same is true at night if this haze of light that is scattered through the atmosphere is obscuring your view of the heavens."

Key Facts In This Video

  1. The first recorded use of street lighting was in Antioch in ancient Greece in the 4th century. 01:33

  2. By the 1960s, most homes had electric lighting. This spurred a rise in higher education, technological breakthroughs, and other advancements. 03:20

  3. Light pollution causes ecosystem problems. 04:00

Written by Curiosity Staff June 23, 2016

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