Growing up far from any city, I have always been able to view the full night sky. It was just the way how things were. Of course, I knew that light pollution is a thing, and that the sky is a lot less clear if you live in a city.

It just never occurred to how bad it was before talking with people who had experienced it.


  • Inside a city, it is pretty much impossible to view anything.
  • It is not a lot better just outside a city, the sky is still mostly empty.
  • Most of Europe, parts of the US, India, and eastern Asia is so polluted with light that you can not see the Milky way.

Does anyone have a map showing the affected area? How many people have never seen our own galaxy?

  • $\begingroup$ Even 50 miles away from NYC you can still see a strong glow on the horizon that makes it hard to see even the brightest stars. $\endgroup$
    – zephyr
    Oct 4, 2016 at 21:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I live in Berlin/Germany and when there are no clouds above, I can easily spot Big Dipper. Orion and thousands of other stars. But I can't see Milky Way or Andromeda. 50 years ago out on the country I've seen it. $\endgroup$
    – ott--
    Oct 9, 2016 at 17:54

2 Answers 2


There's a recent study on this, based on satellite and ground observations around the world.

According to the paper:

The Milky Way is hidden from more than one-third of humanity, including 60% of Europeans and nearly 80% of North Americans.

And there's a map: The New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness. This is probably the most accurate and up to date light pollution map we have at the moment.

The percentages are based on population density, I don't know of any numbers for individuals.


Googling for 'light pollution map' gives a pretty good looking result. Those things usually are created using satellite measurments that are susceptible to scattered light (by measuring the polarity of light) in order to separate direct illumination from actual light pollution.

I also suggest you visit a city and then compare the light pollution index on this site to what you know as home, in order to get a feeling for the severity of the numbers.

I cannot answer your question about how many people have never seen our galaxy, as this is a function of travel willingness of each individual living in a city and therefore maybe even impossible to answer for our intelligence agencies.


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