We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Twinkle, Twinkle Little What?

By Sarah C Greene
Nov 1, 2001 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 5:48 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The sky isn't falling, but it is fading. The first comprehensive atlas of light pollution reveals that 99 out of 100 people in the continental United States never see a truly dark night sky. As a result of widespread artificial lighting, more than two thirds of Americans never see the Milky Way, the cumulative glow of all the stars in our galaxy. Two fifths live in places where the sky is so heavily illuminated that their eyes never become adapted to night vision at all. And at near-urban observatories such as Mount Palomar, the artificial glow frustrates many sensitive studies.

According to Chris Elvidge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and his colleagues, two thirds of the world's population experiences some amount of light pollution. Why do we create so much illumination? Lighting is cheap, says Elvidge, and most people don't consider light pollution a problem. But scientists estimate the United States could save $1 billion a year by switching to more efficient bulbs and downward-directed lighting.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.