It appears to be the case that 80 percent of Americans are unable to see the Milky Way due to the effects of light pollution.
The Milky Way, that dreamy texture of stars has always dominated the mindscape of countless skygazers. Yet today due to light pollution it is a concealed phenomenon from about 80% of Americans.
Light pollution is a global problem which causes a derangement of the environment. The constant presence of artificial lights in the developed countries of the world creates a veil of light that covers the light coming in from the stars in the night sky.
Italian and American researchers brought this finding into public view. There are large swathes of people in the US who have not had the privilege of seeing the Milky Way. This beautiful sight which is like looking into our own cosmic history has been lost due to mankind’s interventionist designs.
"We've got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way," said Chris Elvidge, a scientist with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information in Boulder, Colorado. "It's a big part of our connection to the cosmos -- and it's been lost."
A team of experts from Kimberly Baugh of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder along with Elvidge compiled the first global atlas of light pollution.
The study got published in the journal Science Advances.
It is hoped by lead author Fabio Falchi from the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Italy that the atlas will be an eye opener of sorts for people regarding light pollution.
The atlas was compiled thanks to incoming information from a satellite. Thousands of ground views were used in gathering the data for the light pollution atlas. Light pollution is rife in regions such as Italy, Singapore and South Korea. Canada and Australia have the darkest skies though.
In Europe, there are small regions such as Scotland, Sweden and Norway where the night sky is relatively intact. However, in the USA alone, half of the people remain deprived of gazing in amazement at the Milky Way. Some national parks in the US are the last bastions of a clear night sky. These include the Yellowstone National Park.
"In the U.S., some of our national parks are just about the last refuge of darkness - places like Yellowstone and the desert southwest," said co-author Dan Duriscoe of the National Park Service. "We're lucky to have a lot of public land that provides a buffer from large cities."
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Besides depriving humans of a clear view of the night sky, light pollution causes confusion among animal species in the wilderness. This often results in the deaths of these poor animals. It is a good thing that light pollution can be countered by a method called shielding. This reduces the artificial light to a bare minimum.