Six things you need to know about light pollution and dark skies
Issued: 24 Nov 2021

Why wish on just one star when you have galaxies to choose from? Dark, starry skies bring a source of joy and wonderment, as we gaze upon the pristine spectacle of the night sky.

Photo credit: © Ross Naumann


Why wish on just one star when you have galaxies to choose from? Dark, starry skies bring a source of joy and wonderment, as we gaze upon the pristine spectacle of the night sky.

The Earth’s rhythm of day and night is relied upon by humans, plants and animals. Artificial light can radically alter the night sky and can interfere with critical behaviours in wildlife—hatchling turtles might not be able to find their way to the ocean; migratory animals can be disoriented from their pathways; and habitat and reproduction can be affected.

Reducing artificial light doesn’t have to be hard. Simple changes can help us all enjoy dark night skies and make sure our wildlife is also well looked after!

So, we’ve come up with six things you need to know—including excellent parks and forests for star gazing and tips on reducing artificial light pollution!

Go on, you can do it, make some changes at home or work to help native critters and bring back dark skies!

1. Twinkle, twinkle little star

Image of night skies in Currawinya National ParkNight skies in Outback Parks | Robert Ashdown © Queensland Government

As artificial light pollution increases in urban areas, it can be hard to see the Milky Way from our backyards. So, start planning your trip to Girraween National Park to discover the brilliance of the night sky.

Queensland National Park Rangers report that the night sky is amazing at Girraween! Any open space will give you a great view, but we suggest trying the day-use area at Bald Rock Creek or find a spot at the base of The Pyramid. Bring your family and friends along, get comfy and gaze upwards—you are bound to be enthralled!

Did you know that Girraween National Park has its own asteroid! 15723 Girraween is a main-belt asteroid discovered on September 20, 1990, by Tsutomu Seki at Geisei Observatory, Japan. Naming rights were given to Granite Belt local, Eiji Kato, who said that he chose the name so that ‘this magnificent park was preserved eternally in space.’

2. What is light pollution?

Image of stars in the night sky, Salvator Rosa, Carnarvon National ParkStars in the night sky, Salvator Rosa, Carnarvon National Park | Robert Ashdown © Queensland Government

You might be familiar with air, water and land pollution, but have you ever thought much about artificial light pollution? Yes, lights can be a pollutant!

Artificial lights have many uses for us, but often excessive or inappropriate use of artificial light leads to too much brightness and skyglow over urban areas.

The good news is that artificial light pollution is reversible, and we can all play our part to make a difference! Why is reducing artificial light important?

  • We’d be helping to stop devastating effects on our native wildlife. Bright night environments can cause predator and prey dynamics to change; wildlife can be confused and disorientated; and food sources and reproduction can be interfered with!
  • As well as having dark skies for viewing of the night sky, reducing artificial light can also impact positively on our health—better sleep patterns and overall health.
  • And last but not least, you could save money by turning off lights that you don’t need on!!

3. Dark skies equal happy wildlife

Image of Northern Brown BandicootNorthern Brown Bandicoot | John Augusteyn © Queensland Government

Did you know that animals perceive light differently to humans?  Artificial light can disrupt critical behaviour and impact wildlife greatly.

Here’s some easy tips on how you can reduce artificial light pollution and help our wildlife:

  • Assess the lighting around your home— turn off lights, and close your curtains and blinds.
  • Use dark sky friendly lighting at your home or business.
  • Talk to friends and neighbours to raise awareness.
  • Visit a dark sky place to experience natural darkness and starry skies.

Dark skies have a conservation value that is important to us all—no one wants to upset smooching wallabies!

Artificial light can disrupt critical behaviour and impact wildlife greatly. Check out the smooching wallabies.

4. Cut the Glow to help Turtles Go

Images of an endangered loggerhead turtle on a roadway, hatchling in park due to artificial light pollution and nesting loggerheadAn endangered loggerhead turtle on a roadway, hatchling in park due to artificial light pollution, nesting loggerhead | Cathy Gatley © Queensland Government

Summertime is Turtle time—with nesting turtles and hatchlings on beaches along our coastline!

Ranger Shane has worked at the Mon Repos Turtle Centre for 10 years, so we asked him to share some tips on how you can help turtles this summer…

‘Turtles really do Dig the Dark—they use the natural night-time light horizon over the water to find their way back to the ocean. Artificial light pollution can be a big problem, turtles use up precious energy reserves as they go the wrong way and hatchlings can end up lost, if they head inland towards community lights.’

‘So, whether you live near a turtle nesting beach, are staying along the coast or maybe camping is more your style, you can all help to Cut the Glow by:

  • turning off any unnecessary lighting
  • change external lights at your home or business to sensor lights
  • if camping think about your outside light placement and shield them from the beach
  • business closed for the night? Turn off illuminated advertising signs and displays.

5. Dark skies at Bladensburg National Park

Image of full moon at Bladensburg National ParkFull moon at Bladensburg national Park | John Gatley, QPWS Volunteer © Queensland Government

Start planning now for a trip during the cooler months, to Bladensberg National Park, Outback Queensland. During the day explore the park and enjoy spectacular views from flat-topped mesas and plateaus, residual sandstone ranges. Then, after your delicious camp dinner, grab some treats and prepare to be amazed!

Dark skies and open landscapes provide endless opportunity for relaxing and seeing what gems you can discover in the night sky—find the Southern Cross, see what creatures the kids can see in the stars, and take in the magnificence of the Milky Way!

Don’t forget to pack your binoculars, telescope, picnic rug and snacks—you won’t regret a trip to see the dark sky of Bladensberg National Park!

Image of keeping camping lights to a minimum at Bladensburg National ParkKeep camp lights to a minimum, Bladensburg National Park | John Gatley, QPWS Volunteer © Queensland Government

6. Astro Photography

Image of the night sky at Nuga Nuga National ParkNight sky, Nuga Nuga National Park | Robert Ashdown © Queensland Government

Oh my, who’s inspired to try and capture a photograph as spectacular as this one?

Photographing the night sky can be quite tricky, you may have to give it a few goes before you have a winner to hang on the wall! Here’s 5 tips to help you get started:

  • Have patience and wait until there is no moon—moonless nights are better to capture the fainter stars.
  • Try night exposure settings on your device, to see what works best for you.
  • If you don’t use auto settings, increase the ISO level on your camera or phone—try starting with an ISO between 1600 and 3200; with an exposure up to 30 seconds and f stop of 5.6.
  • To capture a photo like the one above, try longer shutter speeds – the longer the shutter is open, more light is captured. This will cause star movement as the earth is rotating.
  • Brace your camera or phone for longer exposures. If you don’t have a tripod, use a solid surface. Cable release or delayed shutter release also helps to ensure your device is steady.

So, head outdoors at night to experiment with your Astro photography, have fun and marvel at the wonder of the night sky!