Changes in Light from Space

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Astronauts have discovered that the supposed energy saving lights that many cities use are actually contributing much more to light pollution than previous thought. Astronauts on the International Space Station have studied the light emissions coming from older lights and newer LED lights and have found that LED lights actually make light pollution worse, rather than better.

Photographs taken from the space station show that urban areas and rural areas, once distinct in the amount of light pollution seen from space, are now nearly identical. With the use of LED lights the amount of blue light has increased; LEDs do save energy, but emit a brighter and whiter light that is affecting more than the astronaut’s view.

People who live in urban areas that have an abundance of LED lights might experience a harder time sleeping, as the near-constant brightness can disrupt normal sleep schedules. Living in an environment with a lot of artificial light causes the brain to release less melatonin, making it difficult to go to sleep at night.

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured this picture of light pollution emanating from the Italian city of Milan in 2015.

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) captured this picture of light pollution emanating from the Italian city of Milan in 2015.

The effects of light pollution don’t just pertain to people; animals that are nocturnal, like bats and some insects, can also be disrupted by the lights. Basically, while LED lights certainly are more cost-effective and last longer, their negative effects like light pollution and disruption of human and animal behaviors needs to be researched further.

More: First Use of ISS Astronaut Pictures for Light Pollution Studies – International Astronomical Union, August 11, 2015.

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