Globe at Night

Light pollution is a ubiquitous problem in the modern age, not just for the bright urban metropolises that notoriously never sleep. Globe at Night is a citizen science launched in 2006 by the National Science Foundation to get a better idea of the night sky view initially of Americans and people across the world, the majority of whom Globe at Night claim have never seen the spectacular view of the milky way in their sky, due to light pollution. Since 2015, Globe at Night has asked people to go out for ten days a month at the same time at 8 pm every night and take pictures of one’s view of the constellation of the month. For example, in January and February, the featured constellation is Orion’s belt. Their website and app tell you which constellations to look for, and where they would be in the night sky. You go to their questionnaire on their app, fill in information about location, date, and time, and then you are given a range of pictures that essentially show the visibility of the constellation at different levels of light pollution. Users select the one that most resembles what they see, and submit it on the app. The responses are added to a database that can be used for researchers and governments in research on how light pollution is affecting nocturnal species, human health, and other areas of interest. So far, there have been over 200,000 in 280 countries worldwide. On a map that shows how much and where submissions are clustered, there is a noticeable divergence in data from the global north and global south, with America and Europe having the most submissions. This reflects a broader pattern in data collection and research where even if the goal is to engage people worldwide, the ability and time to participate in citizen science initiatives are clustered in wealthier areas, which thus doesn’t give a full picture of light pollution globally. This isn’t the fault of Globe at Night themselves, but users of their database should be aware of how their data is distributed globally.

“About Globe at Night.” Globe at Night. Accessed August 4, 2020.


Citizen Science, Pollution, Regulation