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April 24, 2008

The Brightest Spots on Earth

Posted: 10:57 AM ET

NASA's remarkable Earth Observatory site has posted a series of photos taken from the International Space station. These pics, taken from a camera designed by former ISS astronaut Don Pettit during his stay aboard the Station in 2002-2003, show some of the brightest spots on the planet.

Jiddah and the Muslim Holy City of Mecca as seen at night from the International Space Station. Source: NASA

Tokyo, the U.S. East Coast, the major cities of the U. K. and Ireland, the Loop in Chicago, and the brightly-lit docks of Long Beach, CA are among the bright spot. But NASA awards the dubious distinction of the Brightest Spot on Earth to the Las Vegas Strip. Why am I not surprised?

But (you knew this line was coming) what's lit in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.

Light Pollution is an aesthetic problem. If you live in an urban area, chances are it's been a while since you've seen a star-filled sky, a planet, or a meteor. But so much of our outdoor lighting is pointed up toward the sky - where it does no good - that light pollution has a direct link to what goes into your lungs.

The International Dark-Sky Association, a two-decade-old, Tucson-based nonprofit, has petitioned the US EPA to recognize light pollution as an "official" pollutant. They estimate that Americans spend several billion dollars a year, and generate an extra 38 million tons of carbon dioxide, in addition to the other pollutants associated with generating power, through wasteful lighting pointed at the heavens.

IDA advocates a switch to more efficient lighting: The kind that directs the light toward the things that need to be lit. Not only would it be one more little piece in the puzzle for reducing global warming, but it might make you see stars.

–Peter Dykstra Executive Producer CNN Science and Tech

Filed under: environment • International Space Station • NASA • Space

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Jenni   April 24th, 2008 12:10 pm ET

I've never understood why anyone would fight against this. It saves cities, companies, and private owners money by allowing them to use less electricity to light the same area. It's better for the environment. It reduces our dependency on foreign oil. And it makes the skies prettier. The only cost is the effort to put a little "hat" over your outdoor lightbulbs - easy enough to do during any building or lighting maintenance. What cost is that, compared to the benefits?

Justin   April 24th, 2008 12:16 pm ET

Anyone who's had the fortune of seeing the sky above the Sonoran desert knows the Dark-Sky Association's right on track!

Robert Wagner   April 24th, 2008 1:18 pm ET

We are working hard to try and save a few parks for future generations.

Boy Scouts Light Pollution Policy

Federal Class 1 Areas are supposed to protected from all current and future visibility impairments – Atmospheric Discoloration – Brightening of the Night Sky should be protected. 25% of these areas have so much light pollution the Milky Way can no longer be seen.


Shawn   April 24th, 2008 2:06 pm ET

This is interesting entry. I'm glad to know that the issue of light-pollution is being taken seriously. It's always bothered me when I look toward the heavens and can see only three or four stars.

The writing style could be improved though; Perhaps a little more copy editing before posting would help. The first sentence has some problems–Tokyo is listed twice, and it should read: "bright spots" not "bright spot". Beginning sentences with "But" instead of joining the sentences together properly makes it hard for me to read. I found myself getting hung up on the English and grammar issues too much. There are still readers out here who pay attention to such pedantic details, and like to read well-written quality content without stopping and wondering why things are capitalized when they should not be and why it's "it's" with an apostrophe intead of "its".

-Shawn   April 24th, 2008 2:34 pm ET

What a fantastic idea. Is there a bill on the table to make it seen as light pollution? What the official way that this happens. I want to tell someone important that I support making light pollution something that we take steps to curb. I am a city dwelling star gazer and I would like to not have to travel to see that stars!

kris   April 24th, 2008 2:46 pm ET

I love stars and would love to see them. I often wonder why lights are on signs are not at least truned off from 2am till the business opens again. It would save lots of power when so few people are out. If a business was open then the lights could stay on.

Chad Moore   April 24th, 2008 2:48 pm ET

Good blog, but it is far more than an aesthetic problem. Artificial light erases nocturnal habitat. Many desert creatures rely on darkness, and lights can disorient migrating birds (as it does hatchling sea turtles). The energy waste is not trivial, but the Dept. of Energy has paid little attention to the issue. And while the strip of Las Vegas is indeed bright, the light output of the city is not atypical. Most cities waste similar amounts of light but using fixtures that shine sideways or upwards, or simply using too bright of a bulb.

Ernie Kampmann   April 24th, 2008 2:55 pm ET

Sounds like typical left wing liberal crap. Spending millions of dollars taking pictures of light and having Congress debate on whether or not it should be called pollution. Here's an idea. Save the money or use it on better ideas. I am sure there are some better ideas out there. I know! How about feeding the poor? Housing the poor? Use the money to educate them so they can actually EARN a living instead of living off of tax payer money. When will the libs in this country wake up and realize that spending money on crap like this is a waste!

Carl   April 24th, 2008 3:53 pm ET

All energy use is pollution in some manner because we're removing one thing and putting it into another. The "pollution" we see is the unused excess energy.

Best way to combat pollution: turn it back into energy, if you can.

Matt   April 24th, 2008 3:54 pm ET

Read more carefully Ernie. These pictures were not taken for the sole purpose of finding bright spots. The space station takes pictures for a variety of reasons both night and day. The night pictures happen to provide information regarding the most brightly lit areas. Here's an idea. Why don't we take the author's advice by decreasing the amount of energy wasted lighting the skies. Then we will have plenty of money to do all the things you have suggested.

Larry   April 24th, 2008 3:58 pm ET

This is NOT left wing liberal crap. This appeals to people of all persuasions, and it's something that a) isn't that hard to do, and b) isn't that expensive to take care of. I think recycling is the same kind of's more about changing habits than anything else.

Besides the aesthetic element (which is considerable) and the biological issue (which is empirically supportable), at the very least it's the right thing to focus on to reduce energy use and dependence on foreign energy sources. I didn't use to think anything of christmas lights being on all night long, but now it seems pretty pointless and stupid. Again, it's just not that hard to make a positive change.

Keep up the good work, Dark Sky Association!!

Ross   April 24th, 2008 6:19 pm ET

Shawn, while I generally agree with you about poor grammar and it hindering the legibility of many articles, you're exaggerating way too much. Sure, a sentence shouldn't be started with the word "but", however, this isn't an essay or a term paper; it's a blog. Sometimes it's easier to follow when you break up one really long sentence and make it two thoughts. Also, the use of "it's" with an apostrophe is correct. Since the only use is in "...chances are it's been a while...", he's saying "it has" hence the contraction with the apostrophe is correct.

Having said that, while light pollution is pretty bad in most cities, it's a little more complex than what is being portrayed here. Simply blocking the light going towards the sky would do nothing to reduce the energy used. Light pollution is made worse by the other pollutants that are in the air, because the light headed towards the sky reflects off all the smog. When one is lighting up words on a sign and wants them to be visible from two blocks away, there's nothing that directing that light will do to reduce the energy needed. Putting a reflector above "Eat At Joe's" to redirect light from the sky out to the street isn't going to make the letters more legible. While the light may be more concentrated and visible from a larger distance, all people will see is a blob of light.

Chuck Hunt   April 24th, 2008 6:29 pm ET

Light pollution affects everyone.
Most of the wasted lighting is produced by coal burning electrical plants.
These produce high air pollution.
The tax dollars wasted by cities that pay for the excessive lighting could be used to feed and house the poor.
There is just too much unneeded lighting.
The electric company would have the whole planet lighted at night.
Taxpayer dollars just roll into their pockets for public lighting.
Save taxpayer dollars AND reduce pollution by reducing excessive lights.

Tiffany, the girl who loves stars.   April 24th, 2008 6:39 pm ET

I find this amazingly true. I live in an urban area, near a highway, and all I see when I look into the skies is an orangy glow. The sky resembles sunset at three in the morning! Why have so much unnecessary lighting even when no one is near to use it? On some roads, the contrast of the darkness of the night and the lights hurt your eyes. So why have that? And why increase global warming using energy on something that isn't needed? Some might say that the International Dark-Sky Association is wasting time and money on something unnecessary. But remember this: Using less energy will save the money needed to use that energy. It's good for all of us. Props to the International Dark-Sky Association! They will help save the Earth from pollution and global warming, and let us see the stars.

-Tiffany, 13, who loves stars.

Bob   April 24th, 2008 9:40 pm ET

The only thing missing from Ernie's rant was "Get off my lawn!!!" Ever think about all the savings from well thought out lighting? That money could be used for all the liberal causes you listed.

Bob in Ohio   April 24th, 2008 10:30 pm ET

I'm sure making my buddies at Halibuton even richer is a much better waste of tax payers money

Light Is Pollution   April 24th, 2008 11:10 pm ET

[...] there's an interesting but sad CNN science blog entry titled 'The Brightest Spots on Earth," about night time shuttle photos from space of different parts of the Earth.  Now, they're [...]

Francis Parnell   April 24th, 2008 11:56 pm ET

Reducing light pollution is EASY! Use fully-shielded fixtures that direct light below horizontal to where it's needed. In many cases it will be possible to reduce wattage and still get quality lighting, and we'll save energy, money, natural resources, and reduce our carbon footprint. Unshielded lights creates glare which compromises visibility and safety. It's also a special problem for older folks.

So since responsible outdoor lighting means we'll see better and be safer, along with saving energy an money, why would anyone argue against it? That's arguing for "conspicuous consumption."

Phil Creed   April 25th, 2008 12:19 am ET

Light pollution isn't a political issue. It's more of a conservation issue just like historical or wildlife preservation. And saving taxpayer's dollars by not installing glare-bomb lighting doesn't make it a "liberal" or "conservative" idea; it's just plain common sense to have streetlights shine down toward the streets, and not through second-story windows where people are trying to sleep or uselessly into space.

Part of the reason people don't miss the stars in the cities is because they've never SEEN them. If you've been out in the desert, or along the lonelier peaks of the Appalachians like Spruce Knob, the heavens are just awe-inspiring and beyond description, yet it's being stamped out by upwards- and sideways-shining lights that are doing no one any good.

Every year the nighttime skyglow gets worse. I live in Ohio, and one of my favorite stargazing spots is in Coshocton County. You can see the skyglow from Columbus off to the southwest. That is, SIXTY MILES to the southwest! From the summit of Spruce Knob, WV, you can now even see a faint glow from the D.C. area, even though our nation's capitol is 140 miles away. Even Las Vegas has a light dome that's visible 180 miles away from the Grand Canyon. It's not just a case of getting away from the city to see stars; there's going to come a point where there's no place to run and the heavens are lost to a senseless, perpetual orange gloaming.

Geovani Balbino   April 25th, 2008 2:36 am ET

Actually, Petit designed not the camera, but a mechanism to compensate the fast target (city) movement relatively to the ISS.
Thank you for this nice blog!

Franko   April 25th, 2008 2:37 am ET

   All those lights have not stopped global cooling
   And will not stop the coming Ice Age

Peter Lipscomb   April 25th, 2008 2:59 am ET

Thanks for posting an item on light pollution. Many people are still unfamiliar with light waste and why it is such an important matter to address. Light pollution may be an "aesthetic issue", but there is more to it than just a pretty sky.

The cultural and scientific value of a dark night sky is also lost or threatened by light pollution. Our ancestors used the stars to manage farming, plan ritual ceremony, keep time, and navigate across uncharted land and water. Scientific assets like Mt. Wilson outside LA or Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin were forced to discontinue research due to urban development and the encroachment of unchecked lighting.

In the nearly 130 years since the invention of the incandescent light bulb, what once was a luxury for the wealthy has become a useful necessity for our modern lifestyle. But, light waste shows how careless and frivolous much of that use can be. Beyond safety and security, many commercial applications of light intended to drive sales are wasteful. Think billboards or car dealerships. Then, there is lighting as architecture. Some members of the design community use light to enhance structural elements. But, improperly aimed and unshielded light that spills into the sky is not "Green design".

So what's the big deal? Stray photons never hurt anybody, right? Medical research is starting to show that we humans need darkness to stay healthy. Many know that the hormone Melatonin has a role in regulating our sleep/wake cycle, but now it seems to be responsible for keeping growth of certain cancer cells in check. Studies seem to indicate that urban populations and graveyard shift workers show a higher incidence of breast and prostate cancers. Too much light and light at the wrong time can kill.

Each of us can make a difference in the effort to reduce light pollution and light waste. Shield lights so they don' t create dazzling or hazardous glare, properly aim lights to prevent light emission above a horizontal plane and light trespass into adjacent property, install motion sensors to activate light only when needed, use more efficient lights like compact flourescent bulbs and turn of lights not in use.

More light is not always better.

–Peter Lipscomb
Director, Night Sky Program
New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance
Santa Fe, NM

Boy Scout   April 25th, 2008 8:56 am ET

Perhaps we can all take a look for areas of opportunity.

Robert Wagner   April 25th, 2008 8:57 am ET

There are lots of good places to look for hope that we can preserve something for the future:

Boy Scouts



Robert Wagner   April 25th, 2008 9:01 am ET

Possible inclusion in the EPA's 2008 Report on the Environment:

"Mr. Miller noted that the SAB had received several public comments submitted on the issue of light pollution (see Attachment M). Several members of the public joined the call and oral comments were offered by Leo Smith, Robert Wagner, and Stephen Davis. They noted that the
issue of light pollution has been overlooked by U.S. EPA, but a number of state agencies have recognized it as a serious consequence. The commenters encouraged inclusion of light pollution in the 2007 U.S. EPA Report on the Environment.

Dr. Morgan asked the commenters if they were concerned with light or also radio frequencies. The commenters said that they were concerned with light. They are concerned about ecological
effects from light pollution, not astronomical effects. Mr. Wagner elaborated that he was concerned about light pollution in Federal class I areas underneath the Clean Air Act (CAA).
Mr. Stephen Davis remarked that complaints about light pollution started in the early 1900s, around 1910. He suggested that energy, health, commerce, and defense should all be involved in
addressing this issue. He suggested that U.S. EPA provide information on this issue, using information distributed by the state of Vermont as an example.

The Board members agreed that a sentence should be added to the air quality section of the draft SAB report on the issue of light pollution"$File/Minutes+SAB+02_28-29_2008+w+Atts.pdf

JK   April 25th, 2008 9:05 am ET

Reducing light pollution will do little to reduce reliance on foreign oil. The largest source of electricity in the US is coal, not oil or natural gas.

Ernie Kampmann   April 25th, 2008 9:51 am ET

Wow. I stirred up some people, didn't I? Here's my whole point. Democrats always want to tax people to death and give the money away to others. They want to spend money on ideas that seem to make sense. This one seems to make basic sense, turn off lights, save electric and thus save energy and pollute less. My problem is that these people spent probably millions of dollars thus far just to come to this conclusion. Democrats always say we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. While I ALSO believe we must do this and that we should spend some money in order to do it, I believe that the money is being mis-managed on a basic level. We all know (even Republicans) that oil is NOT limitless and that we will eventually have to come up with better sources of energy if we are to survive. Why not drill for oil off the coast or in Alaska? The libs and special interest environmental groups giving them money are keeping us from tapping into the large oil reserves in the Gulf, but Hugo Chavez and castro are currently working on a plan to tap into them. How is allowing Cuba and Venezuela (Spelling? Sorry) to drill for oil off of our coast reducing our dependence on foreign oil? If done properly and safely, it will not harm the environment. At least it will not harm it anymore than we already are! Its not a long term fix, but it will buy us a little time. Why not use nuclear energy? The left wing liberals always say that we should save the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I simply believe that we can't have both at the same time. Its not a perfect world we live in. We can't have our cake and eat it too! A simple analogy to this whole mess is building a four lane suspension bridge across a creek that is 6 feet wide to a child's clubhouse, when all that is needed is a board and a couple pieces of rope to hang onto! Wake up. We are running this planet into the ground and wasting billions of dollars doing it.

Ernie Kampmann   April 25th, 2008 9:53 am ET

By the way, JK above is absolutely correct!

Ernie Kampmann   April 25th, 2008 9:57 am ET

One more thing. I also have switched my entire house to flourescent lighting to save ME money. I also have added insulation to my house to do the same thing. The best incentive for people to save energy is to make it profitable for them to do so. Instead of spending millions of dollars to come to conclusions we already know about, how about using that money to buy and give away hybrid cars to some tax payers? This would do MUCH more to reduce oil consumption than wasting time on arguing about it and doing studies.

Ernie Kampmann   April 25th, 2008 9:59 am ET

One more thing to BOB above, "GET OFF MY LAWN!"

Ron   April 25th, 2008 11:55 am ET

I don't care for light pollution any more then I care for any kind of pollution however any money saved from better lighting practices certainly would not go to feeding or housing the poor. Any savings would be instantly spent on some other stupid and wasteful project, plan or politicians pocket. Perhaps it would be spent for health care of illegal aliens, or teaching everyone Spanish or the extra costs of printing things in multiple languages but never on something beneficial or useful.

jennifer   April 25th, 2008 12:00 pm ET

As an astronomer, light pollution is a key issue for me. It of course has a very real environmental impact. Switching to energy efficient bulbs, turning off lighted signage late at night, and installing fixtures which direct light to the ground are easy and well worth the effort. Stories like the one above help raise much needed awareness.

But in addition to environmental concerns, as Peter Lipscomb already pointed out, we've had to close major observatories because of light pollution – observatories with fantastic (and expensive!) telescopes. Kitt Peak National Observatory is more and more suffering from the effects of light pollution. Our top astronomers now travel to places like Chile to observe.

Ernie, I think you're a bit off topic and a bit misinformed (e.g. you ask "Why not use nuclear energy?" but most "libs" do support this and in fact most republicans don't). I'd like to specifically address your comment "My problem is that these people spent probably millions of dollars thus far just to come to this conclusion."
This is entirely false. The International Dark Sky Association has been in operation for twenty years and "As a membership-based organization, IDA receives most of its funding from membership dues." You can even check IDA's tax returns to see just how much money it spends. I think we should always keep a close eye on government spending, but, in this case, the cost associated is not even a drop in the bucket. Additionally, the Tucson, Arizona metropolitan area has been a leader in enacting outdoor lighting codes that keep nighttime skies dark. National measures could easily be modeled on these.

And to this comment:
"The best incentive for people to save energy is to make it profitable for them to do so. "
I completely agree, but people need to be convinced that the changes they make will indeed save them money. They also need to know what specific changes they can make (flourescent lighting is not always the best/most cost effective option by the way). Spending for education and research in the area of light pollution is necessary and easily offset by the savings (both literally and for the environment and scientific research).

And trust me, there's no huge and costly government agency dealing with this issue. It's relatively small organizations (most notably the IDA) who are pushing for these reforms. (And, of course, individual astronomers like me whose work depends so much on dark skies!)

Aussie Jane   April 25th, 2008 3:35 pm ET

"The lowest point in San Jose, CA is at sea level at the San Francisco Bay in Alviso; the highest is 4,372 feet (1,333 m) at Copernicus Peak, Mount Hamilton, which is technically outside the city limit. Due to the proximity to Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton, San Jose has taken several steps to reduce light pollution, including replacing all street lamps and outdoor lighting in private developments with low pressure sodium lamps. To recognize the city's efforts, the asteroid 6216 San Jose was named after the city." -Wikipedia article (San Jose)
I think San Jose is a fine example of how a city can change it's lighting infrastructure, to reduce light pollution. Compared to most large cities in the U.S. I have been to, San Jose is at the top of the list when it comes to reducing light pollution. When I lived there in the 1970s, we had gold skies at night. Now, you can see the stars again.

Robert Lee   April 25th, 2008 5:00 pm ET

We can only faintly see the northern lights hear in Anchorage because of all the outdoor lighting that the city of Anchorage sponsors in winter. A 6000k world at night is not only wasteful of energy, it isn't healthy or wise. Much of that light comes with a carbon price. I would like to see the sky again, so thanks guys.

Tim Maher   April 25th, 2008 9:12 pm ET

I wish more people would push there local areas to consider light pollution. I'm a city boy at heart – and at everything else other than one exception: the stars. I used to live in the rural rural part of Africa and there is nothing I miss more than the stream of the Milky Way in the night sky.

Marvin ze Martian   April 26th, 2008 8:50 am ET

zomg de lightz R purdy

Kerry Haladae   April 26th, 2008 10:33 am ET

Ernie, your accusation concerning left-wing politics is not only misplaced but misguided. In fact the three presidents most responsible, by far, for blowing the national budget into the monster we have now. Were Reagan, Bush 1 and little "W". Please do your homework.

Random Dude   April 26th, 2008 4:47 pm ET

OK here is my take on it.
1. Seeing stars are important. If anything, we need to familiarize ourselves, as soon we will have to go to space to get more resources.

2. The comments that cities are "wasting energy" or "polluting the sky", I disagree a little. They're doing that for a purpose. If you don't have that neon sign saying "McDonalds" or "OPEN" or whatever, you don't know they're Mackidy, or if Mackidy is open, so you don't buy food from the burger joint. We don't "waste" if it serves a purpose. Luxor Las Vegas doesn't beam that god damn blinding light to the sky so they can pollute the sky, they do it because it will attract high class gamblers so there is Las Vegas to visit, not just a desert full of truckers.

3. It's called "city" and not rural farms for a reason. There are lights there.

4. If you want to see the stars, get out of the city and camp in a cabin somewhere in national parks.

5. Basically dont be too narrow minded and resort to name calling whenever we have a problem. Provide a workable solution. If businesses need to attract customers at night without light, please do provide a solution. We can all just go back to savannah and live in our caves otherwise.

Dan   April 27th, 2008 8:55 am ET


Michael Gilmer   April 27th, 2008 11:34 am ET

Fighting light pollution is a win-win situation. Conserving energy, helping the environment, and having a beautiful pristine night sky is something everyone can do – and it doesn't cost a dime to do it. As an amateur astronomer, I have a personal stake in enjoying dark skies, but those without telescopes can benefit as well.

Linda   April 27th, 2008 4:30 pm ET

Chicago has actually made a lot of improvements on light pollution. They now have a program called Lights Out Chicago that was started when scientists at the Field museum discovered that when the lights were on at McCormick place there were 80% more birds killed than when the lights were out during the migratory seasons.

All of the skyscrapers and most of the loop now have a lights out or lights dimmed during at least 4 months of the year and more and more buildings sign on each year when they see the energy savings. It is estimated that as many as ten thousand (10,000) birds are saved each year. I would love to see the night shots from space that actually show a month when the Lights Out Chicago program is in place vs the months where it isn't, maybe then we could get more buildings to sign on to the program year round.

StarGazer   April 27th, 2008 5:23 pm ET

What political issue is there regarding this, when I'm quite certain that both democrats and republicans alike have the aptitude for star gazing, if not a fondness for it.

Cities have so much artificial light that even rural areas suffer as a result. (How about we prefer "too much artificial light" for terminology since "light pollution" seems to have the derogatory affect of making this a political issue first when it is really secondary to understanding the issue at hand.)

If there are ways to effectively and efficiently limit certain lighting without it costing the businesses that they may serve (such as signs), it makes perfect sense that we do so. If we can also save money, it makes even more sense that we do so. If most people like to actually look at stars, we would be narcissistic idiots to deny ourselves such a luxury on the basis of our politics.

jord   April 28th, 2008 10:34 am ET

why is it so brite

Dave   April 28th, 2008 8:00 pm ET

I actually sell lighting fixtures. Although I am pretty new to the lighting industry, I do feel that dark sky approved fixtures are the way to go. The problem is that the dark sky fixtures are usually more expensive, so specifiers are less likely to select something with a flat lens that would be dark sky approved, and instead go with a round drop lens (for outdoor site lighting).

In order to get more dark sky approved lights, municipalities are going to have to take the steps in order for this to happen by regulating dark sky approved fixtures to be used. This sounds like a good idea, but having "Bob the Deli Owner" try to legislate something like this presents a problem: people not in a technical, engineering field don't know what they are doing! What ends up are towns and counties with ludicrous lighting regulations that are done only to silence the protesters, but that in turn frustrates engineers because they can't get the acceptable IES footcandle requirements for adequate nighttime walking or safety. The end result? People can't see too well in the night, muggers come out of the woodworks, liability for people falling.

Cities and municipalities need to embrace people that deal in these technical fields in order to address the issue of energy waste and dark sky light pollution. Planners and lawmakers need to sit down with some engineers who are members of respected lighting organizations like the IES or the IESNA. Even contact the RPI Lighting Research Center!

Just don't make ridiculous laws or regulations to silence any critics for the heck of it; take the appropriate steps to help the population see better on the ground, and in the sky 🙂

Mark   April 29th, 2008 1:22 am ET

jennifer, Very nice response. Spot on. I've watched the stars fade from view my entire life and I hope IDA can make a difference.

Poor Ernie. He's been kept in the dark and there's so much he can't see.

elduac   April 29th, 2008 8:55 am ET

Maybe the feds could get some free airtime for a public service announcement advocating we use the on/off switch more.

glubby   April 29th, 2008 10:01 am ET

what about idiot posturing liberal pollution, like this absurd article which wasted time, ink, paper, trees, the energy to print and manufacture and distribute and maintain in a server? I'd call this, not only a form of pollution, but the cause of a syndrome and a fact, it attacks my civil liberties and causes me pain and suffering...I'm calling my liberal lawyer immediately, and we're going to take this before a liberal judge who was educated in the liberal education system....maybe that guy who sued the dry cleaner for tens of millions of dollars for ruining his pants.

you people disgust me and I take great joy in burning fossil fuel

MB   April 29th, 2008 10:25 am ET

Why does everything have to be tied into global warming. Why cant the merits of the issue stand on their own. Because the majority of people dont care. So we got to scare them to care. Global warming is an issue but I beleive it is our sun that is having the biggest impacton our planet, not the clean burning coal plants, not the improved mileage cars we drive and not the hydro electric dams that produce the vast majority of my electricity.

I chose to live in an urban area because it is important for me to live where I can see the stars. Where I can take my kids out on a warm August night and show them metior showers and the full moon and explore the planets with the naked eye. Places like this are in abundance, but you have to chose to live there. No amount of goverment regulation will get you there.

The fact is the majority of lights that are on provide either a sence of security or they are for vanity. Most people chose to live in cities because they are close to school, work and the conviences of the modern world. You would need a paridigm shift of biblical proportions to change this. People will be people.

It is in personal responsibility that we as a society will change. Technology is not inherintly bad, just how we employ it. Get the fat politicians off their rumps and actually encoureage change instead of regulating and we will all grow together.

Now if we cant just stop the killing of the whales, wouldnt this be a great place to live?

Michael Gilmer   April 29th, 2008 11:32 am ET

The truly sad thing is, people who don't think "light pollution" is an important issue are quick to say : "if you want to see lots of stars, drive out to the country".

Increasingly, one has to drive further and further away from the cities to get away from the light pollution. With today's energy costs (another reason to turn down the lights), it's not reasonable for someone to drive 4-hours round trip to stargaze. Besides, our children and grandchildren will never know the wonder of a beautiful night sky because they will look up and see nothing but bright grey washout. What is so terrible about being more responsible about nighttime lighting? Why is it labelled a "liberal thing"? And how long will the naysayers cling to their obsolete arguments that defend the use of bright nighttime lights with no cutoffs or timers? I'd say the real issue here is not "light pollution", but the stunning ignorance of those who continue to bash the rational voices who are trying to save our night skies from oblivion.

Maybe if light pollution adversely effected a person's ability to watch insipid television tripe like professional wrestling, NASCAR, or American Idol, then something would be done about this issue. Unfortunately, many Americans just don't care about an issue until it impacts them in a personal way, and since many Americans don't give a darn about the night sky (or how much of it will be left for their kids), then light pollution is not going to be taken seriously.

Well, I care about what my grandkids are going to inherit. So, I say to the selfish fools who light up their yards like the sun at night, don't be so ignorant and selfish – be smarter about your lighting.

Michael Gilmer   April 29th, 2008 11:37 am ET

BTW, nice to see you Phil! (Phil Creed)

Well said sir. 🙂

LasVegasRog   April 29th, 2008 8:10 pm ET

Light pollution is a form of pollution, but compared to the other severe forms of pollution to this planet, it is insignificant. Everywhere around us, are short-term solutions to problems. The biggest problem we face and as morbid as it may sound, is society. Humans go against everything nature stands for. We keep our weak alive; we keep criminals alive; we keep our enemy alive. The rate at which we are multiplying is astronomical, and we are the true pollutants, because not only have we have forgotten to give back, but society won't allow us to give back because society as we know is, goes against nature's ways. Soon all jungles will be concrete jungles.

You all are so worried about seeing the stars, while all our rivers, oceans, land, our bodies and minds are polluted? Most people won't spend the petty amount required to convert incandescent bulbs to flourescent, let alone convert their home to a smart home running on low voltage, energy efficient appliances, insulation and other features of today's smart homes. It's not cheap people, and our government is supposed to pull a rabbit out of a hat and do this on a national scale overnight because someone suddenly blew the whistle?

I wonder how many wanna-be environmentalists drive SUV's. How many don't carpool. How many boycott Chinese products.

It's so easy to point fingers, but change starts within each one of us. However to make change one has to have some sort of sense. It's just a matter of time... our destiny is inevitable.

jack   April 29th, 2008 8:11 pm ET

By having the proper lighting and having it all directed down. Would save on energy because less wattage would be reguired to have the same effect. Plus, there would be less glare on the highways, etc.

Joe Lalumia   April 30th, 2008 5:42 pm ET

Let me appeal to your saving energy senses-

1. Billions of dollars per year in energy costs go out into SPACE, rather than toward the ground where they belong.

2. This is really a simple fix- fully shielded fixtures are the same price as unshielded fixtures- and use less energy since the light is DIRECTED –estimates are 30-40% less energy for the same illumination.

3. The problem is that the public equates more light to more safety at night- even though the light may be pointed right at you creating deep shadows on the property where criminals can hide.

4. Many laws have been passed designating fully shielded reflective fixtures for all commercial and residential applications- however communities have been slow to enact these laws and more importantly ENFORCE the light trespass laws- and utility companies and transportation departments continue to install OLD type unshielded fixtures.

Until this big waste of energy reaches a "public" critical mass - things will stay as they are now. Hopefully the news media will pick up on this energy WASTE and start covering it in prime time.

Troy   April 30th, 2008 8:54 pm ET

As a boy living in Idaho, when we went to visit my grandparents in the mountains I would stay up late at night and stare at the sky in awe. When there is no light pollution you would not believe what you can see. You can actually see the galaxy in which we live. It's awe inspiring and I remember it clearly to this day.

Franko   May 1st, 2008 3:09 am ET

Just think of the poor Eskimo; they cannot switch off the Northern Lights.

Due to constant light: "Today, factory farm chicken grow to slaughter weight of around two kilos in just 38 days". How few years could we make a human generation ?

Children become short sight if continuously exposed to light.

With Earth based telescopes blinded, will we miss the asteroid lurking to create a Deep Impact ?

Thomas   May 2nd, 2008 3:07 pm ET

When I lived in Tucson as a kid, I remember seeing the night sky. I fully support the IDSA.

BB   May 3rd, 2008 4:49 pm ET

I live in Vegas and use my backyard telescope regularly. We watch the milky way. (I never saw that in LA or Mexico City) Light pollution is much worse when compounded by particulates in the air.

We can see just fine in Vegas.

Andrew L.   May 3rd, 2008 11:31 pm ET

Our village has gone out of its way to replace older streetlights with newer, more efficient lights - but also replace the old lenses that scattered the light. the new lights shine down ONLY. The result is a HUGE decrease on the amount of light pollution! We are a suburb with a tough battle between the safety of the lights and the natural beauty of the dark.

iamprince   May 6th, 2008 6:38 pm ET

Hello everybody,

I was not @ all surprised to see that HOLY MECCA is visible from the skies, It is written that we cannot see many cities cuase of pollution,
but that is not correct, the real reason is what u see in mecca is not the lights, but the some natural power, which has been like this since the start of the earth.

Franko   May 8th, 2008 1:02 am ET

God is brightest; Sex, Drugs, Entertainment, and Gambling
Outshine the Zombies of the Devil Osama !

Jon   May 13th, 2008 10:41 am ET

"We can see just fine in Vegas" of course you can. its the brightest place on earth. 🙂

steppersor   December 3rd, 2008 8:00 pm ET

Add to my Bookmarks 😉

Jamie Stewart   May 19th, 2010 9:17 pm ET

i already upgraded my family car to Hybrid to help the environment.;:`

Paige Flores   July 23rd, 2010 1:20 am ET

hybrid cars are energy efficient compared to diesel or gas powered cars.::"

Arianna Torres   September 9th, 2010 7:08 am ET

i like hybrid cars because they are more energy efficient compared to petrol engines*,-

Megan Ally   October 4th, 2010 2:11 pm ET

motion sensors are very useful when you want to detect stray animals or burglars on the move::,

Detoxification Diet Recipes ·   November 9th, 2010 10:47 am ET

some motion sensors are very expensive, specially those that are rated for industrial use "

DHEA Dosage   December 16th, 2010 2:17 am ET

hybrid cars would be the best thing because they are less polluting to the environment .*`

OMG-Fact #26577 | ssttevee's Blog   February 20th, 2011 8:35 am ET

[...] Photographs of Earth taken from the International Space Station reveal that the world’s major cities are, not surprisingly, the brightest spots on Earth. The biggest offender by far, though, is Las Vegas. However, what truly is surprising is that these lights that can be seen from space are only the light that is traveling from the Earth up to the sky. This is light that is actually pointed upward that no one on Earth can actually see, and is therefore wasted energy. The International Dark-Sky Association refers to this phenomenon as “light pollution”. Not only does too much light emanating from our major cities make it difficult or impossible to view the night sky from Earth, but the wasted light that inefficiently travels up into space also contributes to real pollution. They estimate that, in the U.S. alone, several billion dollars in energy costs are wasted and an additional 38 million tons of CO2 get generated every year to produce lights that we can’t even see. (source) [...]

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Las Vegas Strip is the brightest place on Earth when looked from space   September 1st, 2011 11:43 pm ET

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In home Personal training Long Island   December 11th, 2013 12:38 pm ET

The darkest spot in the world is also the brightest spot! Ha I find that funny.Why am I not surprised?
What also surprises me is this figure "They estimate that Americans spend several billion dollars a year,
and generate an extra 38 million tons of carbon dioxide"

Great read CNN.

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Why Mongolia? – Desert Queens' Adventures   July 18th, 2016 5:08 pm ET

[...] out. Even just outside of Las Vegas (which, I learned while writing this, may hold the title of brightest city on the earth), one only needs to drive about a half hour past the mountains on the edge of town to escape to [...]

Myron Flautt   April 15th, 2017 1:53 pm ET

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d1rdw0lf   May 7th, 2017 11:53 pm ET

Yet the brightest city in the world is illuminated purely on hydro-electric energy. Check the Hoover Dam. Don't make Vegas look bad. 😛

5 Things We Learned about Vegas in 5 Days – Alexis Chateau PR   May 27th, 2017 10:55 pm ET

[...] to CNN Science and Tech, "...NASA awards the dubious distinction of the Brightest Spot on Earth to the Las Vegas [...]

Alexis Travels to Las Vegas PT 4: – Alexis Chateau   May 29th, 2017 4:57 am ET

[...] Fact: NASA says Vegas is the brightest spot on Earth, when viewed from outer [...]

Where to Take Your Out-of-Town Friends in DTLV | Vegas Pub Crawler   August 11th, 2017 6:04 pm ET

[...] Museum represents an iconic image in Las Vegas history: the famous bright lights people say you can see from space. If you’ve ever wondered what happened to all those old lights, statues, and signs from the old [...]

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