How Light Pollution Threatens Minnesota's Wildlife and Dark Skies
Recorded observations of light’s impact on the environment date back to ancient Rome, when people noticed that their fires affected animal behavior, says John Barentine, an astronomer and freelance dark-sky consultant in Tucson, Arizona. Gas, and later electric, lights altered the appearance of the night sky through the 1800s and into the 1900s, when observatories moved outside of cities to escape sky glow, followed by an accelerated brightening of nighttime as the 20th century went on. Then came light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. A type of semiconductor, LEDs use less energy than other kinds of light bulbs typically used in streetlights and other outdoor fixtures, making their carbon footprint smaller. They last longer and cost less to operate. Those features make LEDs environmentally appealing in many ways, Barentine says, and society embraced them.
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