With light pollution on the rise, it’s getting harder and harder to find places where you can see the stars at night. A map of Europe illustrates how rare truly dark skies are nowadays.
One Redditor shared a map that depicts light pollution in Europe. The cooler the colors on the map, the darker the skies in that area; the darkest skies are represented with black, whereas the brightest skies are shown in bright pink.
Most of the map is bright green and yellow, representing a brightness of .64 to 2.56 millicandela (mcd), the standard unit of measurement for determining a light source’s intensity. The brightest spots are over 41 mcd, while the darkest are less than .01 mcd.
The map is from Light Pollution Map, a website that allows users to explore light pollution around the world. By clicking on a location, users can see how high the brightness levels are in that area.
The main causes of light pollution are outdoor artificial light sources like streetlights, electronic advertising, stadium lighting, and lighted greenhouses. And it turns out that obscuring the stars isn’t the only unfortunate side effect of light pollution.
Artificial nighttime light confuses sleep cycles in humans and animals. Nighttime predators that rely on darkness to catch food may have trouble feeding themselves. Migratory animals sometimes lose their way because artificial light disrupts their migratory patterns. Coral reefs have been observed spawning outside of optimal fertilization times, mistaking artificial light for the moon’s light that usually triggers spawning.
DarkSky seeks to “restore the nighttime environment and protect communities and wildlife from light pollution,” according to their website. DarkSky has identified more than 200 International Dark Sky Places. These are places where dark skies are protected through responsible lighting and education practices.
Users were shocked to see how thoroughly light pollution dominates our night skies. “The level is shocking,” one user wrote.
“There are basically no dark skies in Western Europe,” another wrote.
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