Chances are, you can't even see the Milky Way -- and it's for one surprising reason.
The night sky is nothing more than a black void to most people on this planet, and that’s an unfortunate thing for so many people who can’t even see the majesty above them.
A new study has found that a third of the world’s population, and the majority of those living in America and Europe, can’t see the Milky Way at all because of an extraordinary amount of artificial light, according to a statement from GFZ Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre.
Light pollution is something that affects a huge amount of people — 99 percent of Americans and 83 percent of Europeans, in fact. And it totally drowns out the night sky for a third of the world’s population. The problem is as technology improves, more and more cities are bathed in light 24 hours per day, seven days per week, leaving us unable to witness the stars above unless we venture far away from the artificial light.
An international team of scientists was able to determine this by creating an atlas of artificial light intensity worldwide.
“The atlas documents a world that is in many places awash with light,” the statement reads. “In Western Europe, only a few small areas remain where the night sky remains relatively unpolluted, including areas in Scotland, Sweden, Norway, and parts of Spain and Austria.
“In addition to a world map, the scientists provide tables showing the area of each country and what fraction of its population live under highly light polluted skies,” it continues. “The authors specifically examined the G20 countries, finding that in terms of area, Italy and South Korea are the most polluted, and Canada and Australia the least. Residents of India and Germany are most likely to be able to see the Milky Way from their home, while those in Saudi Arabia and South Korea are least likely.”
Big advances in the accuracy of the atlas were possible due to a new satellite and the development of inexpensive sky radiance meters.
“The community of scientists who study the night have eagerly anticipated the release of this new Atlas,” said Dr. Sibylle Schroer, who coordinates the EU funded “Loss of the Night Network” and is not one of the study’s authors. The director of the International Dark-Sky Association, Scott Feierabend also hailed the work as a major breakthrough, saying “the new atlas acts as a benchmark, which will help to evaluate the success or failure of actions to reduce light pollution in urban and natural areas.”