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.
“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.
“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.
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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