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The Galaxy has disappeared from view for a third of humanity; will there be a growing movement to bring it back?


Before artificial skyglow from industrialization, early humans used the stars as navigation during migration, to plant crops for survival, and even created impressively accurate calendars by studying the occurrences of celestial events. Unfortunately, human activities are causing an increasing amount of light pollution, which prevent some populations at various locations on Earth from seeing the night sky as it once was. Mainly arising from urban areas, the production of excessive light due to inefficiency and unnecessity has significant negative effects.

A fairly comprehensive and quantitative assessment of light pollution is described in this article published by the AAAS. With the help of light pollution propagation software, data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, and measurements made by the Sky Quality Meter, a team of researcher created the world atlas of artificial sky luminance, finding that the Milky Way is not visible for over one-third of humanity! This includes 60% of Europeans and about 80% of North Americans. In some entire (small) countries such as Singapore and San Marino have the Galaxy is entirely blocked.

To help reduce this pollution, several programs have started to promote awareness and provide suggested solutions. This include organizations advocating smart light laws and policies as well as efforts by various astronomical centers such as the Mont-Mégantic Observatory and the David Dunlap Observatory. However, light pollution currently is not as well advocated as other types pollutions such as air, water, even noise pollution.

The international dark-sky association is one of the leading organizations promoting public awareness on light pollution by inviting citizen-scientist to take measurements of night sky brightness using a smartphone or a computer. This citizen-science campaign named Globe at Night has been collecting data since 2006. The total number of observations has been increasing almost for every year. Thus far, Globe at Night has received 9132 observations as of writing. For the year of 2015 there were a total number of 23053 observations made from people of 104 different countries.

Although advocacy against light pollution still remains relatively weak, we can monitor an increase in popularity of the issue and the number of people getting involved.

Will participation in the 2016 Globe at Night campaign (which will be announced on the Globe at Night Real-time Interactive Infographic) to be greater than that of 2015?

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