Twinkle, twinkle fading stars: Hiding in our brighter skies

Jan 18, 2023, 9:02 PM | Updated: Jan 19, 2023, 11:14 am
FILE - Dave Cooke observes the Milky Way over a frozen fish sanctuary in central Ontario, north of ...

FILE - Dave Cooke observes the Milky Way over a frozen fish sanctuary in central Ontario, north of Highway 36 in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada, early Sunday, March 21, 2021. According to research published in the journal Science on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, every year the night sky grows brighter, and the stars look dimmer. Analyzing data from more than 50,000 citizen scientists, or amateur stargazers, reveals that artificial lighting is making the night sky about 10% brighter each year, a faster rate of change that scientists had previously estimated looking at satellite data. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)

(Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)

              FILE - A view from the camping platform Cedar Hammock on the east side of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge picks up light pollution from the Southeast of the refuge, Wednesday, March 30, 2022, in Folkston, Ga. Only the Stephen C. Foster State Park, on the West side of the refuge, is a certified dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
            
              FILE - Dave Cooke observes the Milky Way over a frozen fish sanctuary in central Ontario, north of Highway 36 in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada, early Sunday, March 21, 2021. According to research published in the journal Science on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, every year the night sky grows brighter, and the stars look dimmer. Analyzing data from more than 50,000 citizen scientists, or amateur stargazers, reveals that artificial lighting is making the night sky about 10% brighter each year, a faster rate of change that scientists had previously estimated looking at satellite data. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Every year, the night sky grows brighter, and the stars look dimmer.

A new study that analyzes data from more than 50,000 amateur stargazers finds that artificial lighting is making the night sky about 10% brighter each year.

That’s a much faster rate of change than scientists had previously estimated looking at satellite data. The research, which includes data from 2011 to 2022, is published Thursday in the journal Science.

“We are losing, year by year, the possibility to see the stars,” said Fabio Falchi, a physicist at the University of Santiago de Compostela, who was not involved in the study.

“If you can still see the dimmest stars, you are in a very dark place. But if you see only the brightest ones, you are in a very light-polluted place,” he said.

As cities expand and put up more lights, “skyglow” or “artificial twilight,” as the study authors call it, becomes more intense.

The 10% annual change “is a lot bigger than I expected — something you’ll notice clearly within a lifetime,” said Christopher Kyba, a study co-author and physicist at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam.

Kyba and his colleagues gave this example: A child is born where 250 stars are visible on a clear night. By the time that child turns 18, only 100 stars are still visible.

“This is real pollution, affecting people and wildlife,” said Kyba, who said he hoped that policymakers would do more to curb light pollution. Some localities have set limits.

The study data from amateur stargazers in the nonprofit Globe at Night project was collected in a similar fashion. Volunteers look for the constellation Orion – remember the three stars of his belt – and match what they see in the night sky to a series of charts showing an increasing number of surrounding stars.

Prior studies of artificial lighting, which used satellite images of the Earth at night, had estimated the annual increase in sky brightness to be about 2% a year.

But the satellites used aren’t able to detect light with wavelengths toward the blue end of the spectrum — including the light emitted by energy-efficient LED bulbs.

More than half of the new outdoor lights installed in the United States in the past decade have been LED lights, according to the researchers.

The satellites are also better at detecting light that scatters upward, like a spotlight, than light that scatters horizontally, like the glow of an illuminated billboard at night, said Kyba.

Skyglow disrupts human circadian rhythms, as well as other forms of life, said Georgetown biologist Emily Williams, who was not part of the study.

“Migratory songbirds normally use starlight to orient where they are in the sky at night,” she said. “And when sea turtle babies hatch, they use light to orient toward the ocean – light pollution is a huge deal for them.”

Part of what’s being lost is a universal human experience, said Falchi, the physicist at University of Santiago de Compostela.

“The night sky has been, for all the generations before ours, a source of inspiration for art, science, literature,” he said.

___

Follow Christina Larson on Twitter at: larsonchristina

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Signage outside PayPal headquarters in San Jose, Calif., is pictured on March 10, 2015. PayP...
Associated Press

PayPal to cut 2,000 jobs in latest tech company cost-cutting

PayPal said Tuesday it will trim about 7% of its total workforce, or about 2,000 full-time workers
14 hours ago
Defense attorney Phillip Barber cross-examines Lt. Britt Dove in the double murder trial of Alex Mu...
Associated Press

Both sides use trove of cell data at Alex Murdaugh trial

A state agent testifying Wednesday in Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial meticulously reconstructed activity from his iPhone and the cellphones of his son and wife the night they were killed to try to link the disgraced South Carolina attorney to the shooting deaths. The key evidence for prosecutors is a video from the son’s phone […]
2 days ago
FILE - This July 12, 2021 image shows a large bowl of roasted green chile at a market in Hatch, N.M...
Associated Press

New Mexico considers roasted chile as official state aroma

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The sweet smell of green chile roasting on an open flame permeates New Mexico every fall, wafting from roadside stands and grocery store parking lots and inducing mouth-watering visions of culinary wonders. Now one state lawmaker says it’s time for everyone to wake up and smell the chile. Sen. Bill Soules’ […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

How major US stock indexes fared Wednesday 2/1/2023

Wall Street rose to its highest level since the summer following the latest hike to interest rates by the Federal Reserve, which said it’s finally seeing improvements in inflation. The S&P 500 rallied back from an early 1% loss Wednesday to rise 1%. The Nasdaq jumped and the Dow ended barely higher. As expected, the […]
2 days ago
FILE - Meta's logo can be seen on a sign at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on No...
Associated Press

Meta posts lower Q4 profit, announces huge stock buyback

Facebook parent company Meta posted lower fourth-quarter profit and revenue on Wednesday, hurt by a downturn in the online advertising market and competition from rivals such as TikTok. But the company’s stock soared in extended trading, as its revenue beat Wall Street’s muted expectations and the Menlo Park, California-based company announced a $40 billion stock […]
2 days ago
This Sunday, June 30, 2019, aerial photo released by Earthjustice shows the Alaska's North Slope in...
Associated Press

Biden administration recommends oil drilling in Alaska

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Biden administration issued a long-awaited study Wednesday that recommends allowing a major oil development on Alaska’s North Slope, and the move — while not final — drew immediate anger from environmentalists who saw it as a betrayal of the president’s pledges to reduce carbon emissions and promote clean energy sources. […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Twinkle, twinkle fading stars: Hiding in our brighter skies