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Light Pollution Hides Milky Way

Astronomers report that nearly a fifth of the world’s population cannot see the Milky Way band thanks to light pollution. While the condition may seem to simply be a loss of nocturnal aesthetics, researchers believe it actually affects human health by disturbing the circadian rhythms that drive sleep patterns. Some studies have even linked unnatural levels of light affecting hormone levels (specifically in conjunction with rates of breast cancer). Regarding the light pollution itself, even bouncing just 3% of city’s lights into the sky can increase observable sky glow by up to 10% from 100km away. Cities that reflect 10% of their light skyward increase that same sky glow by 570%.


This long exposure shot reveals the Milky Way from a beach in San Pedro, Belize.

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Information This article was edited after publication by the author on 18 Jun 2009. View changes.
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It's sad.. by Anonymous

This is one thing I wish I could see at least once in my life.. I live about 30 miles east of Cleveland and we’re in the “country” somewhat. But because my town has grown and the light pollution from Cleveland, there are things like this which I haven’t been able to see.

Yet this spring, I saw a satelitte transversing the sky and it was clear as can be. I’ve seen the ISS and the space shuttle on multiple occactions too.

Living in a somewhat rural area, I forget many people have never seen this. One time friends from the city were out to stay for a few days at my parents home. On a very clear night one of the people looked up in the sky and said, “Wow, you guys have smog here too?”. “That’s not smog!”, my father exclaimed, “That’s the Milky Way.”

On the other side of things, if it’s cloudy and a new moon, it can be cave darkness if you’re caught outside at night without a flashlight. I can remember walking home from somewhere and having only the edge of the road to guide me in the total blackness.

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