When you look up at the night sky, how many stars do you see? As cities and suburban communities grow, so does the amount of artificial light from things like street lights and billboards. Lots of nighttime lighting means that you can probably only see the brightest stars. While outdoor lighting helps humans see at night and stay safe, night lights can impact wildlife in other ways. Lights can disorient sea turtle hatchlings that should be headed for the sea, throw migratory birds off-course and keep salamanders from leaving their dens. Some bats will not fly in bright areas, impacting their ability to find food.
Viewer Tip: You can measure the amount of "light pollution" in your community and contribute to a growing data set by participating in GLOBE at Night. From February 12-21, share your observations about how light affects your ability to view the night sky. It's easy to participate - visit www.globeatnight.org/observe.html to find all the tools and information you need to:
- find your latitude and longitude;
- head outside more than an hour after sunset and find the Orion, Leo or Crux constellation;
- use GLOBE's magnitude charts to determine the brightness of stars where you live;
- report your observation and compare it to thousands around the world!
Can't participate this time? There will be two more chances to share your observations this year: March 13-22 and April 11-20.
For more weather and environment tips, visit Earth Gauge!
(Sources: Marris, E. “In search of dark nights.” Nature News, July 2010; GLOBE at Night; Image courtesy of NASA.)