A fleet of 500 drones lit a Candy Crush commercial over New York City. The night sky announcements create a wedge between man and nature, astronomers say.

The word Candy Crush was spoken by 500 drones in the Lower Manhattan skyline for the video game’s 10th anniversary on November 3, 2022.Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

  • On Thursday, a fleet of 500 drones illuminated the New York City skyline with a Candy Crush commercial.

  • While it didn’t significantly contribute to light pollution in New York, astronomers say the event is a sign of our declining relationship with the night sky.

  • Experts say one third of humans on Earth can no longer see the Milky Way, due to light pollution.

Five hundred drones blasted into the skies above New York City on Thursday night, lighting up the Manhattan skyline with an ad celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Candy Crush video game.

In June, a similar performance in New York used hundreds of light-equipped drones to advertise the upcoming NBA draft.

“This kind of thing should be stopped by the laws if there is no reason, as it seems, before it’s too late,” Fabio Falchi, a researcher at the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute who has been studying light pollution for over 25 years, told Insider. “Now, for the benefit of a company, the real stars will be replaced by this ultra bright drone light.”

New York City is little known for its stargazing. Astronomers say a swarm of drones didn’t add much light pollution to the already well-lit city.

A heart is created by 500 drones on the skyline on November 3, 2022.

A heart made up of 500 drones over the New York City skyline on November 3, 2022.Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

“In the grand scheme of things, it matters little compared to the many low-quality outdoor lights that are on all night in many US cities,” John Barentine, astronomer and consultant at Dark Sky Consulting, told Insider. “If it became a nocturnal event, or if there were many such events at once, I’d be more nervous about it.”

Astronomers like Barentine say it’s a sign of humanity’s declining relationship with the night sky. “If I can’t get people to worry about stars they can’t see anyway, in the future we’ll only see more instead of less. And that’s a real loss to people all over the world,” he added.

Falchi pointed to companies in Russia that are creating space billboards that will use satellites to display advertisements in low Earth orbit.

Light pollution, which can include artificial illumination of the night sky, can prevent us from having a clear view of the stars.

Worsening light pollution. A September 2021 study using satellite data found that global light pollution increased by at least 49% from 1992 to 2017.

The Milky Way captured with the technique of long exposure photography.  The Milky Way is the visible part of our galaxy that contains our Solar System seen during the dark night sky from Mount Tymfi in the Pindus range in Epirus.  Night landscape on the mountain with the colorful Milky Way sky dome, the cloudless sky in the mountains with the starry sky with hills in summer with the beautiful background of the Universe and space.  Monte Timfi, Pindos, Greece, July 2022

The Milky Way on Mount Timfi in Greece in July 2022.Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto via Getty Images

In a 2016 study, Falchi and other researchers estimated that even on the clearest night, the Milky Way was hidden from vast swathes of humanity. According to the study, in 2016, 99% of people in the United States and Europe lived every night with some degree of light pollution.

It may not be as deadly as other types of pollution, but light pollution can harm animals and people. Many studies have indicated that light pollution – from street lamps, light screens and other sources – bewilders migratory birds and plays a role in declining insect populations. For humans, exposure to night light can disrupt the body’s biological clock, which is linked to health complications, including obesity, depression, and sleep disturbances.

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