For most of Earth’s history, stars, galaxies, moons, and many other cosmic features were visible in the night sky. The beauty of our spectacular galaxy was seen from everywhere; one could look up and witness an intergalactic masterpiece unhidden. However, with the rise in population, urbanization, and colonization of Earth, the glories of the night sky quickly became hidden to our eyes.
This “starless” sky phenomenon in urban areas is caused by light pollution. This type of pollution is described as the “brightening of the night sky by excessive and additional light” which prevents stars -- that typically stand out in the darkness -- from being seen. Light pollution requires avid stargazers to travel away from cities and extensive urban lights just to view the night sky in its entirety, a journey that could prove problematic for many that lack access to transportation.
Light pollution affects the way the night sky and greater space is captured and seen by both photographers and interested astronomers alike. Capturing the starry night can often produce outstanding results, but only if the conditions are right.
Unfortunately, the process of reducing light pollution in cities may not be as easy as it seems. Lights have integrated and embedded themselves into modern society in such a way that removing them might cause more harm than good. For example, dedicated lights during the night provide a level of safety and comfort.
However, in everyday life, there are a few things we can do to limit light pollution, such as recognizing the excessive use of lights in society and working to combat this in our own homes -- like turning the lights off when leaving a room or setting timers on porch lights. If a more substantial subset of urban populations were to reduce their energy consumption in the form of light, the distant cosmic wonders of space would be more visible each and every night to each and every one without having to travel to far-reaching locations.