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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
'Pollution' threatens night sky

A new campaign is being launched on Friday to combat the growing problem of so-called light pollution in the UK.

ISS image of London by night, Nasa
London's lights are clearly visible from the International Space Station (Image by Nasa)

Researchers have found that a good view of the night sky is becoming more and more difficult in the countryside.

They have found that during the 1990s the area of countryside with pure dark skies reduced by 27%.

Campaigners want better downward-pointing street lighting introduced to enable the continued view of the night time sky's landscape.

Disappearing zodiac

"We use light so extravagantly that we don't simply waste a lot of energy, but we're lighting up vast numbers of things that don't need to be lit and in doing so we're spoiling so much of the mystery and the beauty and the wildness of the countryside," Sir Max Hastings, president of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The campaign's map shows light pollution across England

Scientists estimate that less than half of the population will ever see the Milky Way galaxy, and of the 12 constellations featured in horoscopes, five have become completely invisible in light-polluted areas.

The campaign is being launched by the CPRE and the British Astronomical Association.

Max Hasting said that one solution to light pollution was to point lights towards the area they are intended to illuminate rather than allowing them to cast light upwards.

"The Highways Agency cottoned on to this and 150,000 of its road lights now simply have hoods on them so that they're lighting the road, public safety is looked after, but the light pollution is enormously less than it was," he said.

The British Astronomical Association tries to encourage all aspects of observational astronomy for beginners to professionals.

The CPRE has published maps showing the level of light pollution across England.

Its data is based on images from US Noaa satellite observation programme.

Sir Max Hastings, CPRE president
"We're destroying the beauty and mystery of the countryside"

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