Researchers: Light pollution in Qatar is the third-worst in the world

Galactic Core Bay

Kamran Qureshi

Desert sky in Qatar

Qatar suffers from some of the worst light pollution in the world, which prevents virtually all residents from seeing the Milky Way, new research has found.

According to a team of international scientists, some 97 percent of residents here live under light-polluted skies.

Their findings were published in an article earlier this month in the journal Science Advances.

The article states that light pollution in Qatar is the third-highest in the world, behind Kuwait and Singapore. This is likely influenced by people’s tendency to reside in cities.

Countries whose populations are most exposed to light pollution.

Science Advances

Countries whose populations are most exposed to light pollution.

To arrive at their conclusions, researchers used satellite data, computer models and on-the-ground measurements of sky brightness by professional and citizen scientists.

‘Bad sign’

Speaking to Doha News, Jassim Lari, co-founder of Qatar Astronomy, said it’s been particularly difficult to enjoy anything celestial in the past three years. That’s when his neighborhood was outfitted with bright streetlights.

“They illuminate not only the street, but also the sky and the houses. There are too many (and) they are energy consuming,” said the astronomy enthusiast, who lives in the middle of Doha.

He added:

“I bought my home before the lights came. I remember how great (and) how beautiful the sky was until the lights came and everything was destroyed.”

According to scientists, spotting the Milky Way – a glowing band of stars in our galaxy – is out of the question in Qatar.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Yoshika Kehelpannala

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, some local astronomy enthusiasts have previously enjoyed the nighttime spectacle by driving far away from inhabited areas.

Lari now goes to the desert to observe the sky, but said that even this is becoming difficult due to light pollution from the city.

“I used to observe some deep-sky objects 2.4 million light years away. (I) can’t see them anymore – It’s a bad sign.”

Researchers appear to agree:

“The artificial brightening of the night sky represents a profound alteration of a fundamental human experience – the opportunity for each person to view and ponder the night sky,” the article states.

Solutions

Scientists also noted that light pollution can have consequences on public health and the environment. Besides, they added, all that illumination is a waste of energy and money.

Map of light pollution’s visual impact on the night sky

Science Advances

Map of light pollution’s visual impact on the night sky

To counter the problem, researchers suggested installing shields or blinds so lights only shine on their intended area, as well as using sensors so that lights are turned off when they’re not needed.

Some of these measures have already been adopted by architects and designers in Qatar.

For example, the exterior of the Torch Tower in the Aspire Zone was designed to minimize the amount of light that’s “spilled” upwards, architects said.

Elsewhere, plans for Lusail City call for exterior lights to be “concentrated in special areas for maximum effect” and reduce pollution.

Can you see the stars at night? Thoughts?

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