A huge area of the Maltese archipelago is heavily light polluted, according to a University of Malta study.

Light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light, and can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife and the climate.

The report, which included the first ever map of the night sky brightness for the Maltese Islands, was by led by astrophysicist Joseph Caruana.

The problem is also getting worse over time, with measurements showing that the night sky brightness is increasing, the findings showed.

In Malta, the worst affected town is Birkirkara while in Gozo, Victoria and Għajnsielem are the two brightest zones.

In Malta, the worst affected town is Birkirkara

The least affected site in Malta is Rdum tal-Vigarju (cliffs off Baħrija, limits of Rabat), whereas in Gozo, the darkest region is Ta’ Ħarrux (off Dwejra).

The main sources of light pollution included public monuments, churches, football grounds, harbours, showrooms and excessive street lighting.

The publication also pointed out that light pollution is becoming the focus of studies worldwide, seeing as the issue has repercussions both on human health and the ecology with various species being affected.

Research has linked light pollution to problems of psychological well-being as well as various types of cancer, such as prostate and breast cancer, specifically through the suppression of the hormone melatonin.

The prevailing level of night sky brightness over the archipelago is also impinging upon Dark Sky Heritage Areas in coastal zones in Gozo.

These are designated sites that allow the appreciation of the night sky and offer nocturnal creatures a respite from artificial lighting.

The study concluded that all identified main sources of light pollution can be effectively mitigated through proper regulation of outdoor lighting.

It also made a number of recommendations, including the use of properly-designed lighting fixtures that direct their light downward, and the adoption of luminaires (electric light units) that emit at a warmer colour, which results in less scattering of light.

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