Light Pollution

Light pollution is a problem in many cities throughout the world. It comes from streetlights, building lights, outdoor lights, and advertising lights for stores and other businesses. From a distance you can see the glow of many cities in the night sky. This is called sky glow. Some cities give off so much light that they can be seen from space!

The Danger of Too Much Light

Too much light can waste energy, but it also has an effect on people. Light, like sound, crosses boundaries and can frustrate neighbors, shining into their homes and keeping them awake at night. Glaring lights can blind drivers and cause accidents. Bright lights in the workplace all day long can lead to headaches, high blood pressure, and nervousness.

Too much light can make seeing stars harder. Astronomers and people who want to look at the stars must go to an area with less lighting to get a better look. Observatories are located in low-light areas and get regulations to keep the areas that way. For example, when the California Institute of Technology built its observatory on Palomar Mountain in the 1930s, the spot was chosen because it was so dark that the 200-inch telescope could see very faint, distant galaxies. But over the years southern California has become very built up and the lights of the cities cause sky glow in the night sky. The Palomar Observatory has tried to work with local government s to keep the light down so they can continue their important astronomy work.

Did You Know?

Lighting the Way for Baby Turtles

When baby sea turtles hatch out at night, they are guided to the safety of the sea by the brightness of the horizon when compared to the surrounding dark of the dunes. When big hotels are built on the beaches, the baby turtles are attracted to the bright lights of the hotels, instead of the horizon of the sea. Now regulations require hotels to turn off their outside lights during the few weeks that the baby turtles need to see the subtle light leading them to the ocean.

SKY GLOW: Sky glow is the light glow in the night sky over cities. It makes viewing the night sky difficult.

What a Racket!

Noise pollution comes in many forms. Use the letters from N-O-I-S-E to fill in the blanks so you can read this silly story!

Turn Out the Lights to See the Stars

You can easily test how light pollution affects what you can see in the night sky. On a clear night lie out in your backyard. Make sure all your outside lights are off and any inside lights that shine into the backyard. Let your eyes adjust until the night sky is clear. Look at all the stars and the details you can see. Now have someone turn on the outside light. Look at the stars now. Are they as clear as they were before? This is light pollution!

You can help prevent light pollution and save energy by turning off lights when you aren't using them, use lower watt bulbs if you don't need bright lights, and keep your lamps pointed to where you need the light to go.

Our Light Affecting Wildlife

Our natural world has a night and day cycle that animals have adapted to over millions of years. With light pollution making even the nighttime bright in some places, the life patterns of wildlife can get disturbed. All you have to do is see a mob of insects crowding around your porch light at night to see how bright light confuses animals and can distract them from their normal life patterns.

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