The team around IGB guest scientist Christopher Kyba – resident at the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) – used, for the first time, a radiation measuring device that was specially launched into space for their work: a radiometer that detects light in the visible and near-infrared range. Since 2011 the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite has been circling Earth on the Suomi-NPP satellite and detecting light in the wavelength range between 500 and 900 nanometres. VIIRS has enabled the generation of accurate light emission maps over a period from 2012 to 2016.
Although VIIRS can not even measure the entire range of the white light emitted by the new LED lights, the data show a clear increase. "In reality, it's even brighter. This is annoying because LEDs have great potential – we would only have to apply them properly. By observing just a few basic rules we could improve a lot," calls Franz Hölker, co-author of the study and head of the IGB research group Light Pollution and Ecophysiology.