Less than 100 years ago, everyone could look up and see a spectacular starry night sky. Now, millions of children across the globe cannot be inspired by stars because they can’t see any stars much less ever experience the Majesty of the Milky Way where they live.
The increased and widespread use of artificial light at night is not only impairing our view of the universe, it is adversely affecting our environment, our safety, our energy consumption and our health.
Starry skies are a vanishing treasure because light pollution is washing away our view of the majestic cosmos.
It not only threatens astronomy but also disrupts wildlife, and affects human health. The glows over cities and towns — seen so clearly from space — are testament to the billions of dollars spent in wasted energy by lighting up the sky.
Light Pollution has eliminated the view of the Milky Way for over 80% of the United States population.
The Bortle Scale of light pollution & night sky effects.
Before and during the 2003 Northeast blackout, a massive power outage that affected 55 million people. Photo by Todd Carlson
The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light – known as light pollution – can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and our climate. Components of light pollution include:
Light pollution is a side effect of industrial civilization. Its sources include building exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues.
The fact is that much outdoor lighting used at night is inefficient, overly bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded, and, in many cases, completely unnecessary. This light, and the electricity used to create it, is being wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on to the actual objects and areas that people want illuminated.
This merely touches the surface of a few among the broad range of issue related to light pollution. Even scientists aren’t sure about all the potential side effects light pollution has on Earth and its inhabitants in the long-term.
Just being aware that light pollution is a problem is not enough; the need is for action.
You can start by minimizing the light from your own home at night. You can do this by following these simple steps:
To minimize the harmful effects of light pollution, lighting should:
Light pollution affects every citizen.
By using lighting only when and where it’s really needed, and by shielding the light so it doesn’t trespass into unwanted areas, nor create glare or clutter, we’d be making a huge impact.
You can help us fight light pollution and protect the night sky. As a member and supporter you are on the ground making a difference every day by spreading the word about light pollution to your neighbors, communities and public officials.
You can make a difference, too!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Poor lighting not only creates glare and light pollution but also wastes enormous amounts of energy and money. Take a few moments to inspect your property for inefficient, poorly installed and unnecessary outdoor lighting. Learn how by visiting our Residential/Business Lighting page.
Look for the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Fixture Seal Of Approval on any outdoor lighting you purchase. IDA maintains a searchable database of lighting products certified to minimize glare, light trespass and skyglow. These products are recommended when replacing outdated or inappropriate lighting fixtures.
You can be a powerful dark sky advocate for your neighborhood, your city, and even your state and country. Solving the light pollution problem involves raising awareness of the issue so that people are empowered to make better decisions as consumers, voters and community members. Use some of our resources like our General Brochure, “Losing the Dark Film” or Mobile Apps to help spread the word.
Engage your online community about the issues and explain why to support IDA. Also, be sure to let them know about joining our email list to receive our monthly e-newsletter and other timely information. They – and you – can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Buy things you love and support IDA with a percentage of your purchase going to save dark skies. IDA participates in the Amazon Smiles Program, Ebay for Charity, Tspring and more. Click here for a full list.
If you’re not one already, become an IDA member and receive our periodic action alerts giving you the opportunity to have your voice heard on late-breaking issues. And let us know what’s happening in your area as new threats and opportunities to protect the night skies arise. You are our eyes and ears on the ground.
It’s amazing what a committed group of people can get done. Our chapter volunteers work hard to get the message out, and they always need more helping hands. Find out if there’s an IDA chapter in your area. No chapter nearby? Then find some like-minded folks and start one
Be part of a global community that is helping scientists measure and study light pollution. There are several ways to help. No experience necessary!
We have public outreach materials that you can use educate your community about light pollution and protecting the night skies including traveling pop-up displays and informational brochures.
Organizations such as service clubs, environmental groups, astronomy clubs, high schools and colleges often have periodic guest speakers on various topics. Ask around and see if any of these groups might be interested in learning about light pollution and the importance of dark skies. To help with your presentation, you can use our Light Pollution Basics PowerPoint presentation and other public outreach materials, and “Losing the Dark”, our six minute video introduction to light pollution that can either be streamed online or downloaded onto your computer.
Local lighting ordinances ensure that your municipality is addressing artificial light at night. Find out if your town has a lighting ordinance. If not, try working with them to pass one. If your town does have an ordinance, make sure that it’s being enforced.
IDA’s Dark Sky Places program recognizes locations with exceptionally dark skies and local efforts to keep them that way. Many of these places are state or national parks. By visiting these locations your tourism dollars help sustain and protect these rare and fragile locales for the benefit of future generations. Find a Dark Sky Place.
Westcliffe, Silver Cliff and Norwood, are Colorado’s only certified Dark Sky Communities. To become an IDA International Dark Sky Community the town or city must adhere to strict implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, like adding shielding units to outdoor lights so that light is being directed down and not up. This image is the result...
Image taken in Westcliffe, Colorado downtown at the end of Main Street on 9/1/2019 by Craig. The Milky Way is visible even on Main Street Downtown. 😀
Dark Skies of the Wet Mountain Valley
Help Us Not Lose Our Night! Keep Looking Up! ⭐