Q&A: New light pollution tracking tool is a physicist’s bright idea

Science | AAAS | 3/6/2019 | Staff
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Think it’s getting harder to see the stars above your home? Now you can check whether the night sky is getting brighter on a new website that displays changes in nighttime illumination across the Earth since 1992.

The Radiance Light Trends website, launched today, is the brainchild of physicist Christopher Kyba of the German Research Center for the Geoscience in Potsdam. For years, Kyba has been analyzing data collected by satellites that peer down at the planet, measuring the glow from street lamps, neon signs, and other forms of night lighting. But traditionally, it has taken up to a day to download, polish, and comb through the numbers.

Site - Users - Areas - Kilometers - Globe

On the new site, which is updated constantly, users can select areas of up to 5000 square kilometers anywhere on the globe and, in just, seconds produce a graph of nighttime radiance over any period in the past 25 years. Select parts of Puerto Rico, for instance, and you’ll see how Hurricane Maria knock out the island’s power grid in 2017. Or pick a rapidly growing city in Africa or Asia and witness how urban sprawl is brightening the night sky.

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Users can also download the data and will eventually have access to the underlying software code, produced under the European Union-funded GEOEssential project, which can be used to perform similar analyses of other kinds of environmental data.

Tool - Array - Users - Kyba - Researchers

The tool could be useful to a wide array of users. Kyba and other researchers, for example, have been documenting the spread of nighttime illumination around the globe, with one study concluding light pollution now affects nearly 80% of the planet. Scientists are also examining how that artificial glow affects human health and the natural world; studies have already suggested it can alter underwater...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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