The dark side of light

12 February 2015. In the highly interdisciplinary research project "Loss of the Night", scientists of very different institutions of the Leibniz Association investigate the increasing illumination of the night, its ecological, cultural and socioeconomic effects, and the effects on human health. Their aim is to develop improved lighting concepts and sustainable technologies.

Concerning astronomy, observations of celestial targets like stars and galaxies are hampered by additional light, be it from a natural source or from artificial lightning.

"Professional astronomy has long retreated to observatories at the most remote places on Earth" Axel Schwope of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) says, "Most people living in a city have never observed the Milky Way with their own eyes - or if so, they have only been able to experience this sight during travels but not at their own doorstep."

A new study that originated at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) has now been published by the physicist Christopher Kyba. Using data from several measuring stations he could further quantify the effects of artificial lightning on the night sky.

The German Astronomical Society has recently established a new commission on "Light Pollution" to foster a greater awareness of this topic. The International Astronomical Union has announced to place a focus on the topics of energy efficiency and light pollution during the currently ongoing International Year of Light 2015.


Publication: Kyba C.C.M. et al. (2015): Worldwide variations in artificial skyglow. Scientific Reports 5: 8409.


More information/links:


Science contact: Dr. Axel Schwope,, +49 331-7499 232

Media contact: Kerstin Mork,, +49 331-7499 469

The key topics of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam (AIP) are cosmic magnetic fields and extragalactic astrophysics. A considerable part of the institute's efforts aim at the development of research technology in the fields of spectroscopy, robotic telescopes, and e-science. The AIP is the successor of the Berlin Observatory founded in 1700 and of the Astrophysical Observatory of Potsdam founded in 1874. The latter was the world's first observatory to emphasize explicitly the research area of astrophysics. Since 1992 the AIP is a member of the Leibniz Association.