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Can we still see the night sky?

by godlove4241
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When asked why humans should care about light pollution, Stephen Loring, co-curator of the new exhibition Lights Out: Reclaiming our night sky At Smithsonian National Museum of Natural Historycited Dunes author Frank Herbert. “He wrote ‘ecology is an awareness of consequences,'” Loring said. Hyperallergic.

“Advances in lighting technology and the global expansion of the electrical grid have made artificial lighting increasingly available,” Loring continued. But as we light up our world, it becomes clear that it also creates serious obstacles to the life cycles of diverse wildlife, including birds, insects and marine life.

During migratory season, volunteers from the Lights Out DC program roam the downtown sidewalks early in the morning to pick up injured or dead birds, which are part of the museum’s collection. (image courtesy of the Smithsonian)

Undeniably, Curfew, which opened in March and will run through December 2025, is an exhibition that has its head in the clouds but its feet planted on solid ground of discordant statistics. For example, more than 80% of people in the world live under some degree of light-polluted skies, and in North America, 80% of the continent’s population cannot see the Milky Way galaxy in the sky. at night due to light pollution, according to the research presented, analyzed and dramatically visualized by the 4,340 square foot exhibit. Along with infographics, photographs capture both the wonders of the cosmos and the deleterious effects of human civilization on Earth, and an immersive installation takes visitors through a cycle of dusk-to-dawn light that highlights the nighttime experience value. The exhibit is a call to action to help visitors mitigate their own contributions to light pollution.

Normally, light pollution obscures the stars over Goodwood, Ontario, Canada (orange sky glow, left), but during the 2003 Northeast blackout, residents were treated to a view on the Milky Way (right). (courtesy Todd Carlson)

“The problem of light pollution is unknown to many, but it is incredibly important and intertwined with other issues related to how we take care of our planet,” Kim Arcand, exhibition co-curator and visualizer data for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. , said Hyperallergic. “Light pollution is a problem we can tackle, big and small. Turn off excess lights at night, mask or direct lights downward, use warmer lighting colors and dimmer lighting when you can. And support lawmakers and legislation that address issues related to wasted lighting at the community level.

Curfew balances warlike emotions between the innate, primal awe of relating to an undiminished view of the night sky and the daily horror that widespread electric lighting inflicts on countless species of birds, insects, marine life and of mammals – including, philosophically, ourselves. While the need to conquer the dark might be a natural impulse in some way, Arcand argues that the need to commune with the night sky is even more fundamental.

An Australian tree frog (Litoria caerulea) common with a full moon, one of many species affected by light pollution encroachment. (© Avalon.red / Alamy Stock Photo)

“Access to artificial light when we want it is relatively new species-wide,” she said. “Humans may have a primal instinct to thrive in any natural light available at night. Think of all the stories, art, music and other important cultural elements that have been created through our access to the stars and the night sky.

Loring, who is an archaeologist at the museum Center for Arctic Studiessimilarly challenges the notion of night as “dark” to begin with and echoes the belief that a galactic view is important to our humanity.

“Growing up in New Hampshire and for much of my adult life working in the Arctic, there is almost no dark night,” Loring said, between quotes about the sanctity of the skies of Dante. Hell (1321) and the Paul Bowles album Baptism of Solitude (1995). “And never before – well, not since some cataclysmic meteorites wreaked havoc some 65 million years ago – has life, as we know it, on our planet been so threatened.”

Japanese firefly (Hotaria parvula) Okayama, Japan. Clearer nights make it harder for fireflies to stand out and distinguish between species. If fireflies cannot reproduce or feed successfully, their populations will decline. (courtesy of Tsuneaki Hiramatsu)
Glowing galactic core of the Milky Way with Mars, Saturn and Antares in Scorpius above moonlit sandstone rock formations in the hills of Alabama California. (© Babak Tafreshi, TWAN)

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