Pollution from artificial lights drowns out the Milky Way for a third of people

More than a third of the world’s population can no longer see the Milky Way because of skies polluted by artificial light, scientists claim. Singapore is the worst affected country, with the entire population losing out on seeing the true night sky, a new global atlas of light pollution shows. In the US, about 80% of the population is affected by light pollution, and in Europe, it’s an estimated 60%. Countries whose populations are exposed to the least light pollution are Chad, Central African Republic and Madagascar.

I hope that this atlas will finally open the eyes of people to light pollution.

Dr Fabio Falchi, from the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Italy

The team of US and Italian scientists used high-resolution satellite images and sky brightness measurements to produce the atlas, published in the journal Science Advances. It shows that in western Europe, only small areas of night sky remained untarnished by light, chiefly in Scotland, Sweden and Norway. Dr Chris Elvidge, from the National Centres for Environmental Information in Boulder, Colorado, US, said: “We’ve got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way. It’s a big part of our connection to the cosmos - and it’s been lost.”

In the daytime, you might go to the Grand Canyon and be disappointed if there was a veiling haze in front of your view. The same is true at night if this haze of light that is scattered through the atmosphere is obscuring your view of the heavens

Dan Duriscoe, U.S. National Park Service