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Letters: Night and light pollution

December 27, 2012

Re “Let there be dark,” Opinion, Dec. 21

A year ago I had the privilege of being one of the first scientists to see the nighttime satellite images of Earth that Paul Bogard refers to. Viewing the lights from East Asia, which represent a quarter of the planet's population, I was deeply moved. What stood out was the darkness of North Korea.

Scientists who study these images have found a strong correlation between darkness and poverty. Although I applaud efforts to reduce artificial light pollution, we should not forget the benefits of electric lighting.

One of our observations is that it is never truly dark at night, not because of artificial light but because of a natural phenomena called airglow, which actually is strong enough to illuminate cloud formations. Really, it is not the darkness itself that should be treasured but, as Bogard points out, the “subtlety” of the faint light that it allows us to see.

Steve Mills
Glendale

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