Astronomy – Light Pollution

Light Pollution pic

Light Pollution
Image: astro.caltech.edu

While visiting Arizona, Westbury, NY, resident Valerie Varnuska had the opportunity to observe the beauty of a night sky peppered with a vast number of stars that are otherwise difficult to see in regions with significant light pollution. In addition to her interest in the stars, Valerie Varnuska enjoys hiking.

In the modern world, the night is much less dark than it was for our ancestors, who did not have access to electric lights. Although such lights help navigate the roadways and buildings of modern cities, they also radiate up into the sky. The many millions of lights in a major city like New York, for example, actually cause the night sky to glow, rendering the dimmest stars invisible.

Called light pollution, this phenomenon diminishes the natural beauty of the night sky and creates difficulties for astronomers who wish to study it. For example, when astronomers take a galaxy’s spectrogram, a measurement that uses light signatures to determine the elemental makeup of celestial bodies, light pollution muddies the results by making it difficult to parse which light hails from the galaxy and which hails from the Earth.

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