New Atlas Shines Spotlight on Light Pollution

The “New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness,” originally published in 2001, has recently been updated and re-released. Differences between the two editions are not solely due to increased light pollution during the interim years. Improved technology and models have resulted in more precise data and images, and as a result, the two are not meant to be compared.

A team of international scientists found significant amounts of data from a special satellite rotating around the Earth at about 800 km above sea level. It features a Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Day/Night Band sensor which takes low-light pictures of the Earth during the night. In addition, the team incorporated measurements taken on the ground by utilizing CCD detectors, handheld Sky Quality Meters, and help from the U.S. National Park Service and scientists all across the globe. This data helped calibrate the satellite information.

More than just astronomers are impacted by the information generated by this atlas. Light pollution can affect a person’s circadian rhythms. Computer and phone companies have taken note and started selling devices with screens that show lots of blue colors (fluorescents) in the morning to wake people up and less of that color (low-wattage incandescent) at night. Fluorescent and LED lights often emit blue wavelengths in addition to contributing to light pollution. The American Medical Association even released a statement arguing against the use of LED streetlights. But until light pollution affects people in a more direct manner, real change is unlikely to happen.

In the meantime, revamping the older lights outside can help improve night skies. The new atlas could highlight areas that have older lighting as well as raise awareness.

Astronomers, businesses, and scientists alike can ensure that their lights are up to date and emit lower blue content with light measurement products from Konica Minolta Sensing. The CL-500A and CL-70F spectral irradiance meters measure both light and color so you can be sure what color wavelengths your lights are emitting.

Privacy Preference Center