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Let There Be dark

Light pollution harms the environment, wildlife, and even human health.

Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC

Civilization’s glare does more than interfere with stargazing; scientists have found that light pollution harms the environment, wildlife, and even human health.For as long as humans have been able to tilt our heads back, we’ve been entranced by the night sky. We sailed vast seas using the stars as guides; planted and harvested according to the phases of the moon; built telescopes to probe our universe and beyond—stretching our understanding of who we are within this vast celestial fabric.Then, in 1879, Thomas Edison debuted his electric lightbulb. Little by little, darkness has all but disappeared—and with it, our intimate connection to the night sky. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s population and 99 percent of those living in Europe and the continental United States now inhabit areas where the night sky measures above the threshold for light-polluted status.Light pollution refers to sky glow, light trespass, glare, and overillumination. The celebrated glow of city lights often exceeds that of natural twilight—meaning the sky in urban areas never gets truly dark. Stars are invisible beyond the glare …

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