Megaphoto of Europe from space that shows the light pollution of our cities

According to the BBC, light pollution affects 8 out of 10 people in the world, and according to Dark Sky, if we focus on the United States and Europe, this figure rises to 99%. These figures increase every year and have a negative impact on the world: It increases energy consumption and harms the health of humans, animals and ecosystems.

Europa’s light image at night in 2022 from the ISS.

The European Space Agency (ESA) wanted to visually show the extent of the artificial light problem in Europe and has photographed the continent from the International Space Station (ISS). The station’s astronauts have observed how light pollution has increased in recent years and want to show what they saw Over one lakh images were captured through digital cameras.

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A team of European researchers has processed the photographs to compare the evolution of light from the continent over time. The result allowed them to see a clear increase in light pollution in urban areas and Change in white and dim light (As a result of the inclusion of lamps with light emitting diodes and LED technology).

Photograph of the Iberian Peninsula from space in 2022.
Photograph of the Iberian Peninsula from space in 2022.

Alejandro S├ínchez de Miguel, a researcher at Madrid’s Complutense University, compared the final image of the study to “CT scan result for cancerOr a fluorescent spider web that doesn’t stop growing”.

In an article published on, experts underscore the importance of photographs taken by astronauts: “They always have been and will be the reference for nighttime observations of Earth.” Without images taken from space, Sanchez says that “we would be acting blindly about the environmental impact of transitioning to LEDs.”

Paris lights a decade ago [izquierda] and now [derecha],
Paris lights a decade ago [izquierda] and now [derecha],

Milan was the first European city to adopt Street lights with white LEDs. This change can also be seen in the United Kingdom in 2019 and other municipalities in Europe are following suit, although fluorescent and mercury vapor streetlights still exist.

Sanchez estimates that “by the end of this decade, a white tone could emerge from space across Europe.”

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How does artificial light affect the sleep cycle?

Scientists emphasize that white and blue light radiation are affecting Europe’s natural night cycles. Sanchez’s study highlights Three major negative effects:

  • Melatonin Suppression: Light deprives animals, including humans, of the hormone melatonin, thereby disrupting natural sleep patterns.
  • Phototoxic reaction of insects and bats: Most of these creatures are extremely sensitive to light and this directly affects their ability to move and react to light.
  • Visibility of stars in the night sky: Humans have used stars for navigation for centuries and now the difficulty of seeing them can damage the human perception of what we understand as ‘nature’.

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