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The public's "right to starlight" is steadily being eroded by urban illumination that is the bane of astronomers everywhere, the International Astronomical Union said on Friday.
The body, which wrapped up an 11-day general assembly in Rio de Janeiro that attracted galaxy-gazers from around the world, argued that authorities should use more unobtrusive lighting in cities and towns.
Such moves would not only free up the night skies to make for easier viewing but also promote environmental protection, energy savings and tourism, it said in a resolution.
"The progressive degradation of the night sky should be regarded as a fundamental loss," the union said.
It asserted that being able to see the stars "should be considered a fundamental socio-cultural and environmental right."
Light Pollution Taking Toll on Wildlife, Eco-Groups Say
Artificial lighting seems to be taking the largest toll on bird populations. Nocturnal birds use the moon and stars for navigation during their bi-annual migrations.
"When they fly through a brightly-lit area, they become disoriented," said Michael Mesure, executive director of the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), a Toronto-based environmental organization. The birds often crash into brilliantly-lit broadcast towers or buildings, or circle them until they drop from exhaustion.
Seabirds are also at risk, said Bill Montevecchi, a marine ornithologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in St. John's, Canada.
Some, like the tiny Leach's storm petrel, feed offshore on bioluminescent plankton—so are particularly drawn to light. The birds may be fatally attracted to lighthouses, offshore drilling platforms, and the high-intensity lamps used by fishermen to lure squid to the surface.
Newly hatched turtles need a dark night sky to orient themselves toward the sea, but artificial lights behind beaches lure them away.
"Hatchlings are attracted to lights and crawl inland, or crawl aimlessly down the beach, sometimes until dawn, when terrestrial predators or birds get them," said Michael Salmon, a biologist at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.
A recent experiment sheds light on the light-pollution problem for salamanders. Ecologists Sharon Wise and Bryant Buchanan from Utica College strung white holiday lights along transects near Mountain Lake Biological Station in Pembroke, Virginia, to test the effects of artificial lighting on the amphibians—which normally emerge from beneath leaf litter to hunt about an hour after dusk..
"We found that when lights are on, they stay hidden for an additional hour," said Wise. "The later they come out, the less food they may be able to eat."
Austin said half the people of the world at present could not see the stars because of night light pollution.
With Tekapo by-laws already in place and monitoring the effects on the night sky of further development are not expected to impact on the quality of the night sky which will allow for astro-tourism to fully develop in the area. Already there are about 1.4 million people through Tekapo annually
All household lights must beam down, floodlights are a no-no and all outdoor lighting must be switched off between 11pm and sunrise.Sodium lights are also a bonus, and all street lights are designed to shine light down onto the street
Originally posted by mrwupy
I live in the city and when I find myself in the country at night, I cannot believe the difference in the sky. Light pollution is a real problem.