The ability of humans to produce their own light changed society. It allowed people to control the amount of light available to them independent of time of day, which lengthened the workday, created a new industry, and made way for other machines to enter homes as electric wiring became more available. However, humanity’s ability to light the night has had some consequences. 

Light pollution, or artificial light at night, is the excessive or poor use of artificial outdoor light, and it has several forms: glare or over-illumination, which is direct light from the fixture; sky glow or the human-created brightening of the night sky; light trespass that occurs when light hits areas not intended to be lit; and clutter, which occurs when lights are grouped in an excessive or confusing pattern. Largely a result of poor design where the light shines out or up in addition to its desired direction, light pollution disrupts the natural patterns of wildlife, contributes to the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, disrupts human sleep, and obscures the stars in the night sky.

Light pollution impacts urban and suburban areas most severely and more than half of humanity lives in cities, a percentage the United Nations expects to increase. No matter where you live you can help lessen light pollution in your community by: 

  • Assessing the outdoor lights on your home or school, then change the design or advocate for a design update by talking to your guardian, property manager, or principal about eliminating some fixtures or replacing them with dark sky-friendly lighting.

  • Spreading the word! Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, or share the word online to help raise awareness about the impacts light pollution has on the environment.

  • Advocating for updated lights in your community. Do your research on areas where lighting can be improved and present your work to your local government officials.

  • Becoming a citizen scientist and submitting measurements of the night sky brightness where you live to the Globe at Night project.

This map layer was created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with data collected by satellites then corrected for factors such as cloud cover, vegetation, and land cover type. The data has been validated with measurements taken on the ground. Read more about this dataset here.


Try the Layer

artificial
Adjective

created by people and industry.

Noun

layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

carbon dioxide
Noun

greenhouse gas produced by animals during respiration and used by plants during photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of burning fossil fuels.

city
Noun

large settlement with a high population density.

Noun

amount of sky covered with clouds.

consequence
Noun

result or outcome of an action or situation.

environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

humanity
Noun

condition of being human, including the study of art, literature, philosophy, and the sciences.

industry
Noun

activity that produces goods and services.

land cover
Noun

physical material at the very top surface of the Earth, such as grass.

light pollution
Noun

artificial illumination of the night sky, often limiting visibility of faint stars or other celestial objects. Also known as photopollution or luminous pollution.

machine
Noun

apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work.

map layer
Noun

part of a map representing specific features of a place.

measurement
Noun

process of determining length, width, mass (weight), volume, distance or some other quality or size.

NASA
Noun

(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) the U.S. space agency, whose mission statement is "To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind."

obscure
Verb

to darken or partially block.

satellite
Noun

object that orbits around something else. Satellites can be natural, like moons, or artificial.

society
Noun

large community, linked through similarities or relationships.

star
Noun

large ball of gas and plasma that radiates energy through nuclear fusion, such as the sun.

suburban
Adjective

of or relating to residential area that lies just outside a city.

United Nations
Noun

international organization that works for peace, security and cooperation.

urban
Adjective

having to do with city life.

validate
Verb

to approve or confirm.

vegetation
Noun

all the plant life of a specific place.

wildlife
Noun

organisms living in a natural environment.