The Disappearing Dark Night Sky

Around the world, the night sky is getting lighter. Luke Haley and Liz Waid look at the problem of light pollution.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Luke Haley.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

If you walk outside in the middle of the night what do you see in the sky? You probably see stars. If you live in the country, you can see many stars. But if you live in a city, you may notice only a few. This difference is important. What happened to all the stars?

Voice 2 

The stars are still in the sky. But people cannot see them because of light pollution. Too much light can make it difficult to see the night sky. But light pollution affects more than just the night sky. It affects all life on earth. Some scientists warn that light pollution damages people and animals. These scientists are working to save the night sky. Today’s Spotlight is on light pollution and the disappearing night sky.

Voice 1 

Thousands of years ago, it was common to see many stars in the sky. That was because there were no lamps or electric lights. People who wanted light needed to build a fire. However, this changed with the invention of electricity. More and more people could buy electric, or artificial, lights. They could put the artificial lights in their houses, businesses and streets. Bob Parks works for the International Dark-Sky Association. This organization works to keep and protect the night time environment. He told the Diane Rehm Show:

Voice 3 

“Over the past 50 years the population has moved closer to cities. Cities have gone brighter, using more lights. And that means that most people growing up today will never see beautiful groups of stars. They will never see a natural night sky. They will never be inspired by it. And we think that is very tragic.”

Voice 2

Today, people are surrounded by light - even at night time. Much of this light is not necessary. Or the light travels where it should not be - it creates light pollution. Light pollution is any artificial light that goes where it is not supposed to be. For example, a person can put a light on the outside of his house. It shines on his own house. But the light could be too strong. It may also shine on his neighbor’s house. The extra light shining on the neighbor’s house is one kind of light pollution.

Voice 1 

Other light pollution can come from cities. Have you ever travelled to a big city at night? You may have noticed that the big city looks like it is glowing. It has a low, soft, light all around it. Pictures from space show the soft lights of cities from all over the world.

Voice 2 

But is all this light really a big problem? People need light to see. They need light to work and drive safely at night, and for many other things! But scientists say that this extra light has proven effects on living creatures - animals and humans.

Voice 1 

One animal affected by light pollution is the sea turtle. Pregnant sea turtles always lay their eggs on a dark beach. The beach is near the water, but covered in sand. The turtle digs a hole in the sand and lays her eggs. When the baby sea turtles are born, they climb out of their eggs. Bob Parks describes how these baby sea turtles, or hatchlings, are affected by light pollution.

Voice 3 

“For thousands of years, sea turtle hatchlings, when they come out, have moved toward the brightest light source in the sky. That has been the stars over the water. That gets them into the water safely when they hatch at night. If you have lights from buildings behind the beach, when the hatchlings come out, they are drawn to the brightest light source. That is often a car parking lot or a road. The hatchlings never make it back to the water.”

Voice 2 

Today sea turtles are finding fewer and fewer dark beaches. But people like Bob Parks work to fix this situation. Parks works with the government. This part of the government works to manage and protect animals. Together, they redesign public lighting - like the lights in car parking lots and roads. They use less intense lights. Public lights are usually a blue color, similar to stars. So instead they use a light that is a little different in color. The hatchlings do not go toward the yellow, orange or red lights.

Voice 1 

Birds experience problems because of light pollution too. Many birds travel to a different area of the world to mate and lay eggs. They often travel at night. But lights from tall buildings can lead the birds off their natural path. A bird may use all its energy flying the wrong way. It may be too tired to continue its natural path. Birds may also crash into brightly lighted buildings. They may die.

Voice 2 

Light pollution also has proven effects on humans. Hormones are chemicals in people’s bodies. They help the body to grow and develop. Light influences these hormones. One of these hormones is called melatonin. Melatonin governs when people sleep and wake. Light can suppress melatonin. Yet many people go to bed with the lights on. This suppresses melatonin. These people do not sleep well. Some people also work in the middle of the night. They work in artificial light. Then they sleep during the day. Experts say that this also has bad effects on a person’s hormones - especially melatonin.

Voice 1 

Some studies show that when people continually suppress their melatonin, they have higher rates of health problems. People can reduce these risks in simple ways. First, do not go to bed with the light on. And second, if you work in the middle of the night, try to work at similar times for a few weeks. Do not work some nights and some days. Instead, form a pattern.

Voice 2 

People and animals need light. But they also need darkness. There are simple ways to solve the problem of light pollution. Experts say that people must first use light wisely. Only use the amount of light that you need. Do not think that more light is better light.

Voice 1 

People also can greatly reduce light pollution by using well-designed lights. These lights use particular colors. They only shine light where it should be. Using less light and better lighting methods reduces the energy people use.

Voice 2 

What do you think about light pollution? Have you experienced it yourself? What do you see when you look into the night sky? Tell us about it on our website at

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at This program is called, ‘The Disappearing Dark Night Sky’.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Can you see the stars at night where you live? Do you like seeing stars at night?


Avatar Spotlight
said on November 04, 2013

It is true, there is too much light everywhere around us, mainly at night. Today, we can only imagine the beautiful night sky full of stars, however, we cannot see it actually. This view of dark night sky is only possible in the few places in the country. The fact that too intense light influences badly the human’s health means we should try to use the light wisely looking on its right amount and placing. The necessity of saving the electrical energy reducing lighting also is not minor. And may the people be able to create the better light conditions for animals’ living too.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 05, 2013

When I was young, I lived in the countryside, I always saw many stars, some group stars, it very beautyful, sometime I saw a star go down with a long light (someone call star raining). But now I living in the city, I do not often see to the sky, or when I see into sky I don’t have the feeling as I was young. I am not sure that I live in the city happy than in the countryside. Some time a good experience came back to me from countryside, from childhood.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 09, 2013

I never thought that something like the LIGHTS could cause problema like this. And of course how this affect animals and our skin. I don’t want to doubt about it. Bit thank you so much for this info. From nos even when I’m tires I’ll sleep with the lights off.

Avatar Spotlight
said on November 20, 2013

Looking the stars relieves people.

If there are something bright even the darker sky,There is always a solution for even hardest problems in life,too.

We will think this when we look stars.


Avatar Spotlight
said on November 22, 2013

Nowadays, pollution environment is more serious all over the world. It is one of the reasons that covers stars in the sky. Last time, I wondered why that I always see many stars when I come back my hometown. As you know, when we live in cities, air pollution is contaminated and it makes a thin layer dirty that covers the sky. Counting and seeing stars help me relax when I am up to my neck in studying.

Avatar Spotlight
Johanna Castillo
said on November 12, 2014

In my case I think it’s important for people to be more responsible for our health and the environment. I’m a graphic designer and generally prefer work day. For me it is more comfortable and aprovecho night to sleep. and I sleep like a baby early.
I think the light pollution and whatever kind pollution is a problem that is caused by all ,  We should began acting wisely.

Avatar Spotlight
Mss Flamboyant
said on December 02, 2014

wow It is a clear problem which is affected our life anywhere. Although a few people can recognize this stuff.

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 24, 2016

why are there so many comments from long time ago?  is this a latest audio program?

andrea's avatar
said on April 29, 2016

Excelente reflexion, and this program is the best !!

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 29, 2016

When I was young, I gone school trip in the countryside, then I saw many many stars , some group stars and it was very beautiful . Then I could’t forget that I saw a star go down with a long light.
But now I want to see a star , but I am living in city , so I can’t see that.
And because the air was polluted, I can’t see a star .
When I see into sky , I never have the feeling as I was young . whenever i get older, I think that I may not pure.

KatyBlake's avatar
said on May 01, 2016

david_zou - New Spotlight programmes are released every week. But we also repeat some of our popular programmes. We do not remove old comments.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on May 01, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight program
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Sunday 01, May 2016

Dear Liz Waid, Luke haley, and Michio Ozaki:

First of all, I want to thank you to develop more one great issue for us readers and learners of English.

Yes, I can. Every night I see many stars in the sky. They are bright and beautiful. Here in the village that I live there are few buildings. In this village where I live there are many houses so we can see the sky very clear and the stars. My village where I live is a little distant from the downtown. It take me to arrive there 0ne hour and half minutes. However, in the downtown we cannot see the sky and stars because of light pollution. Therefore, light pollution is necessary in the downtown to avoid accidents between cars, to protect people against thieves, and other things. Also, the city illuminated with bright lights become more beautiful . My village where I live is very calm and quiet. At night we see only the sky, stars, and cars on the road. I live in an apartment on fourth floor. From my building to the International Airport of Guarulhos, It take me twenty five minutes if I go by car and It take me thirty minutes if I go by bus to arrive there . The International Airport of Guarulhos is the biggest of São Paulo City
Yours regards,
Severino Ramos
São Paulo SP Brazil

KhuyenT's avatar
said on November 09, 2017

I love Spotlight!:)