The citizen science tool aims for people to learn what type of lighting generates pollution and then report those polluting sources that they identify in their environment.
At the Cerro Calán Observatory in the Metropolitan Region, the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM), together with the Centro de Investigación de Luz (CILUZ), the Fundación Cielos de Chile, and the Centro de Excelencia en Astrofísica y Tecnologías Afines (CATA), officially launched Glowatch, an innovative digital platform that will allow people to report sources of light pollution.
The application, available from January 18, is designed for the active participation of “citizen science” and its main objective is to detect, report, register and make visible cases and sources of light pollution throughout the country. This initiative seeks to generate constancy, create awareness and promote changes to stop the advance of the environmental crisis known as “the end of the night”.
The Problem: The End of the Night
Every year, light pollution increases by 2% worldwide. Across the world, only 1% of the population has the privilege of living in areas with pollution-free dark skies. Excessive artificial light not only has a negative impact on the quality of night skies for astronomical observation, but also has negative effects on biodiversity and human health. The new lighting standard, which will be in force from October of this year, seeks to reverse this problem by establishing guidelines for sustainable lighting in outdoor spaces throughout the country.
“Light, unlike other polluting sources, is invisible. If you see water running you go and turn it off, or if you see a river with oil you also go and report it. On the other hand, light pollution is quite silent and invisible to the eyes of those who are not involved in the issue”, explained Ximena Muñoz, executive director of Fundación Ciluz.
It is for this reason that Fundación Cielos de Chile, Fundación Ciluz, the Centro de Astrofísica y Tecnologías Afines CATA and the Center for Mathematical Modeling, joined forces to develop an application that seeks to involve people in the reduction of light pollution, learning what it is, how to identify it and how to report those polluting sources that affect their environment.
“This application will not only provide us with valuable information about the location and type of the different polluting sources in Chile, but also about how people are committed to preventing and reducing light pollution,” said Daniela González, executive director of the Chilean Skies Foundation.
How to report
Glowatch is an easy-to-use WhatsApp application. It allows users to report cases of light pollution coming, for example, from billboards, spotlights, lights, among other sources, that due to their intensity, light direction, or color are negatively affecting people or natural environments.
To report sources of light pollution, users only need to send the information by WhatsApp to the number (+56) 982276560. Also, they can make reports through the website glowatch.cl, by clicking on the WhatsApp icon available on the platform. In addition, on the web portal, they will be able to access the complete and geo-referenced database of all the reports received.
New Lighting Standard in Chile (D.S. N°1/2022 MMA):
Chile has taken significant steps in the regulation of light pollution. The recent regulation (D.S. N°1/2022 MMA) will restrict the spectral emission of luminaires in the blue tones and prohibit emission towards the upper hemisphere. This is expected to result in down-lit public spaces with warm light tones throughout the country. Citizens and civil society organizations will play a key role in the implementation and enforcement of this regulation.
Glowatch presents itself as a strategic ally in this challenge, allowing the active participation of the community in the generation of a national cadastre of light pollution sources.
Coordination with the Superintendence of the Environment
The new lighting standard establishes restrictions on lighting throughout the country, which will be a challenge for the Superintendency of the Environment, which will have to supervise various points in the country. This is why the second phase of the project is designed so that the reports made by each citizen are taken into account by the regulatory body.
Dr. Elise Servajean, general manager of the CATA Center, explains: “The next step would be for this application to connect with the environmental institutions to help them report light pollution sources in a faster and more efficient way. Today, reports are made manually through a form, but we want to facilitate the process so that more people join in the protection of dark skies“.
In addition, the scientists behind the platform assure that this data will be very useful for scientific research. “From the CMM we developed the computer architecture of the platform and we see that there is clearly a possibility to generate data. We are available to contribute to data analysis issues and do science from this, so we hope to continue in conversations and continue with this alliance,” said Jaime Ortega, principal investigator of the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of the University of Chile.
Fundación Cielos de Chile is calling on people to use the application. “In this first stage, we hope that as many people as possible enter Glowatch and use it to report polluting sources and together we support compliance with the new light standard”, concluded Daniela González.
By Alonso Farías Ponce, CMM journalist and Communications Fundación Cielos de Chile.