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SP01: Quantification of light pollution

Investigation of the sources and extent of the urban light dome of Berlin, and their temporal variation

To measure the sky glow the assistance of everyone is needed. The App Loss of Night offers the opportunity to participate in the measurements and learn more about the star visibility in and around our cities and settlements.

Subproject 01 was carried out at the Institute for Space Sciences at the FU Berlin (FUB ISS) and at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisherie (IGB). The subproject explored the
light dome over Berlin, and its variations in time and space. This was accomplished with both aerial and ground based measurements, in multiple spectral channels.

When light travels through the sky, it is occasionally scattered or absorbed by atmospheric components. In the daytime, scattering from molecules makes the sky blue and the sunset red, scattering from water droplets produces rainbows, and scattering and absorption from aerosols allow us to see smog. In the nighttime, these same scattering processes return some of the light emitted upward from cities back towards the ground, producing the "sky glow" present over large cities at night. In addition to blocking the view of faint stars and the milky way, this sky glow is believed to influence urban ecosystems, and may disturb the circadian rhythms of the humans and animals living in the city.

By continually monitoring the brightness of the sky from the ground, it was observed how the sky glow changed in response to the changing weather and seasons, as well as from year to year. Using aerial photography and spectrography, we will also map out the spacial and spectral distributions and intensities of the sources of light on the ground. This map simulates possible occurrence of the sky glow of the city, and provides a dataset for testing algorithms for future satellite based missions.

We have composed a preliminary high resolution mosaic image of Berlin using about 3000 aerial photos taken at 10,000 ft on a clear night. Samples of the photos with reduced resolution are shown below.

Contact: Dr. Christopher Kyba
Leader of subproject was
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Fischer

Find links to the most important publications at our site Literature & Links.

Berlin by night - overall view

Berlin by night - detail of Tegel airport