Foto: Image and data processing by NOAA‘s National Geophysical Data Center. DMSP data collected by US Air Force Weather Agency
Because light has positive connotations with security, wealth and modernity, humans tend to illuminate their environment intensively. Although artificial light provides countless advantages to humans, it also has its dark side. Over the last decades, light pollution, the pollution of naturally dark skies by artificial light, has intensified, without regard to its potential impacts on humans and the environment. While some scientific investigation of light pollution and its effects has taken place, it has been narrowly focused within astronomy or the effects on single organisms. To date, there has not been a wide ranging interdisciplinary investigation.
Adapting to the complexity of the research project "Loss of the Night" scientists of different disciplines examine the reasons as well as the effects of light pollution. Social as well as natural scientists, astronomers and lighting engineers approach the problem from their particular perspective. The different fields of research will be linked in order to find a holistic solution.
Light has a profound effect on the behavioural patterns of most living organisms. Birds, insects, even fish and amphibians navigate by using the spangled sky. The animals are disturbed by artificial lighting in their behaviour and orientation. Extensive consequences may result from this.
Light represents one of the biggest (influencing) factors on human health and wellbeing. In the course of evolution we adapted to the daily and seasonal rhythms of light. Too much light at inappropriate times can interfere with this structure and influence wellbeing, performance and human health negatively.
Artificial Light fulfills a number of social functions. It brings along a considerable increase in people's sense of security, it is a symbol of prosperity and modernity, and stages monuments and houses. The increase in illumination enables distancing from the day-night-rhythm. Economic and social activities continue until late night hours.
Since we started observing the starry sky, we gathered information on the cosmos which are the basis of our knowledge. The stars fade in today`s dramatically illuminated conurbations. Long ago professional astronomy started to escape into rural areas, so people in urban areas alienate from the night sky.
The judgement of night and darkness in separation from light, especially artificial light, is ambivalent depending on the point of view. Since the introduction of electric light, it has become a symbol of modernity and progress, darkness, however, is frequently associated with backwardness and danger. Others admire the night and criticize the increasing illumination and its consequences on social developments.
Artificial lighting has advantages as well as disadvantages on social and ecological environment. Consequently it is necessary to use lighting systems with a minimum energy outlay and individually adapted intensity only available at times and locations where they are needed.