QMRG National Dissertation Prize goes to a Geography student

Tadas Nikonovas, a Geography student, has been awarded the QMRG National Dissertation Prize. His thesis explores the dynamics of night light emissions in Europe

Tadas Nikonovas QMRG prize 2011

Artificial light is a major achievement and arguably improves the quality of life. An illumination of the human landscape is associated with wealth and security. However, excessive outdoor lightning causes an increase in natural sky brightness levels, what is commonly termed as light pollution. The phenomena has an adverse effects on wildlife, human health and is particularly undesirable to amateur and scientist astronomers. Importantly, deteriorated views of the night sky causes the loss of perception of the Universe we live in.

The study uses a unique fifteen year satellite record of the "dark side" of the earth to quantify light emitted from human sources and to determine trends for European countries. Time series analysis of the data indicate spatial and temporal inhomogeneity in trends reflecting the complex anthropogenic nature of the phenomena. The most notable feature of the results is that a predominant increase in the 90's is remarkably changed by a decline in this century. The observed decrease in countries with growing economy is best explained by changes in the outdoor lighting installations initiated by limiting policies. Notably, the "turning point" in trends followed up the release of alarming early studies of night lights which reported near-uniform increase in light pollution levels, and the initiation of artificial light limiting legislations on regional and national levels. Such findings are encouraging and demonstrate how earth observation can be employed in rising public awareness, harnessing and monitoring light pollution.