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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about.. light pollution.


CURWOOD: If you missed this summer's meteor showers or are disappointed that last spring's comet Hyakutake barely looked like a smudge in the sky, you're not alone. Stargazing has become harder and harder in much of the US. Of the 2,500 or so stars once visible to the naked eye, many Americans nowadays can only see a few hundred. The problem isn't their eyes, it's light pollution. Roadways, parking lots and sports stadiums fill the night sky with light and much of it is wasted. By one estimate, 30% of night lighting illuminates nothing but the sky at a cost of a billion dollars a year in electricity. Professional stargazers have been hit hard by light pollution. The effectiveness of the Mt. Wilson Observatory, for instance, has been cut by 10% by the sprawling luminescence of nearby Los Angeles. It can now study only bright stars. But some cities are tightening up on light pollution. In booming Tucson, Arizona, innovative controls and careful positioning of lamps mean that residents can stroll downtown at night and still gaze up at a star-filled sky. And for this week that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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