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GLOBE at Night 2008 Observed Around the World

Thousands of GLOBE Students participated in GLOBE at Night 2008 for two weeks between 25 February and 8 March. In an interview with NPR (National Public Radio), Dr. Edward Geary, Director of the GLOBE Program, said that the GLOBE at Night Program is intended "to raise awareness about light pollution and also to have citizens around the world contribute to the understanding of light pollution in different parts of the world." 

The 2008 campaign received measurements from 62 countries, surpassing last year's total of 60 countries. Just over 4,800 of the measurements came from the United States (with 48 states and the District of Columbia reporting at least one measurement). Observers in Hungary submitted the most measurements (380) from outside the U.S., followed by Romania, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, and Spain, all with over 100 observations; Canada was next largest, with 95 measurements reported. The final data sets and Analysis Summary are now available on the Map section.

In Colorado, where the GLOBE Program Office is located, over 100 people participated in GLOBE at Night events at Estes Park High School. Teacher Melinda Merrill organized a community-wide event where Noah Newman, a Regional Desk Officer at the GLOBE Program Office in Boulder, facilitated planetarium shows. The students and parents in the community also had the opportunity to view Mars and Saturn through high-powered telescopes. To contribute to the GLOBE at Night data, the students observed the constellation Orion and analyzed the degree of effect that light pollution has on their visibility of the stars within the constellation. 

Our data analysts were puzzled to find observations coming in from off the coast of South America. How could that be? Upon further investigation we learned that data was being reported from a boat near the Galapagos Islands!

By entering data into the GLOBE data base and interpreting the collective results, students are able to see the visible effects of light pollution, which comes from excessive exterior and interior lighting, homes, offices, factories, streetlights, advertising and illuminated sports venues. When most people think of light pollution, they think of big cities, but even small communities, where it is becoming harder and harder to see the stars at night, are feeling the effects of light pollution. As communities everywhere light up, the stars fade from view. There is usually a slow and steady progression; most people don't even notice it happening.

Light pollution impacts life on Earth in considerable ways. Electricity is still produced largely through the use of non-renewable fossil fuels such as oil and coal which are wasted on the creation of unnecessary lighting. Nocturnal wildlife is also affected; some will not reproduce where excessive lighting becomes a form of habitat destruction, while other animals avoid lighted areas altogether. Migratory flight paths have been altered due to light pollution for some species of bats. Light pollution also affects sea turtles. Female sea turtles seek out dark beaches that are isolated and undeveloped to lay their eggs each year. When baby sea turtles hatch they instinctively move toward light, which historically means the ocean, with its reflected starlight and moonlight. But when light pollution exists, the baby hatchlings don't know which was to go! Many never reach the ocean. 

But the good news is that light pollution is reversible! If everyone becomes more mindful of installing proper lighting and turning out unnecessary lights, perhaps the citizens of the Earth can reclaim the night sky as it appeared long ago. Some communities have enacted laws prohibiting street lights that shine upward, not only saving the night sky, but also electricity costs. To find out more about what you can do, please visit the Web site of the International Dark Sky Organization.


12 May 2008