Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Night sky


Since the 1970s nighttime satellite images of the Earth from space have provided a striking illustration of the extent of artificial light. Meanwhile, growing awareness of adverse impacts of artificial light at night on scientific astronomy, human health, ecological processes and aesthetic enjoyment of the night sky has led to recognition of light pollution as a significant global environmental issue. Links between economic activity, population growth and artificial light are well documented in rapidly developing regions. Applying a novel method to analysis of satellite images of European nighttime lights over 15 years, we show that while the continental trend is towards increasing brightness, some economically developed regions show more complex patterns with large areas decreasing in observed brightness over this period. This highlights that opportunities exist to constrain and even reduce the environmental impact of artificial light pollution while delivering cost and energy-saving benefits.

Concepts: Scientific method, Light, Economics, Lighting, Light pollution, Night, Economy, Night sky


Despite constituting a widespread and significant environmental change, understanding of artificial nighttime skyglow is extremely limited. Until now, published monitoring studies have been local or regional in scope, and typically of short duration. In this first major international compilation of monitoring data we answer several key questions about skyglow properties. Skyglow is observed to vary over four orders of magnitude, a range hundreds of times larger than was the case before artificial light. Nearly all of the study sites were polluted by artificial light. A non-linear relationship is observed between the sky brightness on clear and overcast nights, with a change in behavior near the rural to urban landuse transition. Overcast skies ranged from a third darker to almost 18 times brighter than clear. Clear sky radiances estimated by the World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness were found to be overestimated by ~25%; our dataset will play an important role in the calibration and ground truthing of future skyglow models. Most of the brightly lit sites darkened as the night progressed, typically by ~5% per hour. The great variation in skyglow radiance observed from site-to-site and with changing meteorological conditions underlines the need for a long-term international monitoring program.

Concepts: Time, Sun, Light pollution, Night, Observational astronomy, Sky, Radiance, Night sky


Artificial light is globally one of the most widely distributed forms of anthropogenic pollution. However, while both the nature and ecological effects of direct artificial lighting are increasingly well documented, those of artificial sky glow have received little attention. We investigated how city lights alter natural regimes of lunar sky brightness using a novel ten month time series of measurements recorded across a gradient of increasing light pollution. In the city, artificial lights increased sky brightness to levels six times above those recorded in rural locations, nine and twenty kilometers away. Artificial lighting masked natural monthly and seasonal regimes of lunar sky brightness in the city, and increased the number and annual regime of full moon equivalent hours available to organisms during the night. The changes have potentially profound ecological consequences.

Concepts: Time, Life, Light, Lighting, Over-illumination, Light pollution, Night sky, Bortle Dark-Sky Scale


In the context of monitoring abundance of artificial light at night, the year-to-year stability of Sky Quality Meters (SQMs) is investigated by analysing intercalibrations derived from two measurement campaigns that were held in 2011 and 2012. An intercalibration comprises a light sensitivity factor and an offset for each SQM. The campaigns were concerned with monitoring measurements, each lasting one month. Nine SQMs, together forming the Night Sky Brightness Monitoring network (MHN) in The Netherlands, were involved in both campaigns. The stability of the intercalibration of these instruments leads to a year-to-year uncertainty (standard deviation) of 5% in the measured median luminance occurring at the MHN monitoring locations. For the 10-percentiles and 90-percentiles, we find 8% and 4%, respectively. This means that, for urban and industrial areas, changes in the sky brightness larger than 5% become detectable. Rural and nature areas require an 8%-9% change of the median luminance to be detectable. The light sensitivety agrees within 8% for the whole group of SQMs.

Concepts: Measurement, Metrology, Arithmetic mean, Mean, Standard deviation, Netherlands, Sky, Night sky


Wildlife watching is an emerging ecotourism activity around the world. In Australia and New Zealand, night viewing of little penguins attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. As penguins start coming ashore after sunset, artificial lighting is essential to allow visitors to view them in the dark. This alteration of the nightscape warrants investigation for any potential effects of artificial lighting on penguin behavior. We experimentally tested how penguins respond to different light wavelengths (colors) and intensities to examine effects on the colony attendance behavior at two sites on Phillip Island, Australia. At one site, nocturnal artificial illumination has been used for penguin viewing for decades, whereas at the other site, the only light is from the natural night sky. Light intensity did not affect colony attendance behaviors of penguins at the artificially lit site, probably due to penguin habituation to lights. At the not previously lit site, penguins preferred lit paths over dark paths to reach their nests. Thus, artificial light might enhance penguin vision at night and consequently it might reduce predation risk and energetic costs of locomotion through obstacle and path detection. Although penguins are faithful to their path, they can be drawn to artificial lights at small spatial scale, so light pollution could attract penguins to undesirable lit areas. When artificial lighting is required, we recommend keeping lighting as dim and time-restricted as possible to mitigate any negative effects on the behavior of penguins and their natural habitat.

Concepts: Light, Lighting, Over-illumination, Light pollution, Penguin, Energy conservation, Little Penguin, Night sky


Artificial light at night (ALAN) is spreading worldwide and thereby is increasingly interfering with natural dark-light cycles. Meanwhile, effects of very low intensities of light pollution on animals have rarely been investigated. We explored the effects of low intensity ALAN over seven months in eight experimental bank vole (Myodes glareolus) populations in large grassland enclosures over winter and early breeding season, using LED garden lamps. Initial populations consisted of eight individuals (32 animals per hectare) in enclosures with or without ALAN. We found that bank voles under ALAN experienced changes in daily activity patterns and space use behavior, measured by automated radiotelemetry. There were no differences in survival and body mass, measured with live trapping, and none in levels of fecal glucocorticoid metabolites. Voles in the ALAN treatment showed higher activity at night during half moon, and had larger day ranges during new moon. Thus, even low levels of light pollution as experienced in remote areas or by sky glow can lead to changes in animal behavior and could have consequences for species interactions.

Concepts: Biology, Light, Lighting, Light pollution, Bank Vole, Voles and lemmings, Red-backed vole, Night sky


Illumination of nocturnal environments is increasing steadily worldwide. While there are some benefits for mankind, light at night affects animals, plants, and human health by blurring the natural distinction between day and night. International regulations exist to protect the environment for the maintenance of human health but nocturnal darkness is not considered. In Germany, cities and communities labeled as Climatic Health Resorts provide for high standards in air quality. However, their degree of nocturnal darkness is unexplored so far. In our study, we examined the degree of nocturnal darkness in German Climatic Health Resorts by two datasets based on georeferenced remote sensing data. The majority of Climatic Health Resorts (93.1 %) are able to offer a relative respite (≥ 20 mag/arcsec(2)) from a degraded nocturnal environment, while only 3.4 % are able to offer a dark, if by no means pristine, night environment (≥ 21 mag/arcsec(2)). Climatic Health Resorts emit less light as well as are less affected by night sky brightness compared to the average of non-classified communities. In combination with daytime requirements, the resorts provide conditions for a more distinct day-and-night-cycle than non-classified communities.

Concepts: Human, Environment, Light, Natural environment, Remote sensing, Night, Sky, Night sky


Artificial light at night (ALAN), producing light pollution (LP), is not a matter restricted to astronomy anymore. Light is part of modern societies and, as a consequence, the natural cycle day-night (bright-dark) has been interrupted in a large segment of the global population. There is increasing evidence that exposure to certain types of light at night and beyond threshold levels may produce hazardous effects to humans and the environment. The concept of “dark skies reserves” is a step forward in order to preserve the night sky and a means of enhancing public awareness of the problem of spread of light pollution worldwide. The aim of this study was to assess the skyglow at two sites in Portugal, the Peneda-Gerês National Park (PNPG) and the region now known as Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve. The latter site was classified as a “Starlight Tourism Destination” by the Starlight Foundation (the first in the world to achieve this classification) following a series of night sky measurements in situ described herein. The measurements at PNPG also contributed to the new set of regulations concerning light pollution at this national park. This study presents the first in situ systematic measurements of night sky brightness, showing that at the two sites the skies are mostly in levels 3 to 4 of the Bortle 9-level scale (with level 1 being the best achievable). The results indicate that the sources of light pollution and skyglow can be attributed predominantly to contamination from nearby urban regions.

Concepts: Light, Light pollution, Observational astronomy, Sky, Night sky, Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, Skyglow, Sky brightness


Stimulated by comments from the new presenter of television’s The Sky at Night, physicist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, that nursing is a ‘career of low aspiration’, Nursing Standard hears from nurses who demonstrate just the opposite. Nurse and trust chief executive Karen Castille starts the series by explaining the origins of her ambition.

Concepts: Nursing, Nurse, Nurses, Florence Nightingale, Nurse uniform, Night sky, BBC, Nursing journals


In this paper, the night sky star image processing algorithm, consisting of image preprocessing, star pattern recognition, and centroiding steps, is improved. It is shown that the proposed noise reduction approach can preserve more necessary information than other frequently used approaches. It is also shown that the proposed thresholding method unlike commonly used techniques can properly perform image binarization, especially in images with uneven illumination. Moreover, the higher performance rate and lower average centroiding estimation error of near 0.045 for 400 simulated images compared to other algorithms show the high capability of the proposed night sky star image processing algorithm.

Concepts: Signal processing, Computer graphics, Machine learning, Computational complexity theory, Image processing, Halting problem, Epitaph Records, Night sky