In a painting by the history painter Jan Matejko, Nicolaus Copernicus looks up.

He is standing on the tower he had built for his astronomical observations, and his eyes are filled with awe, almost terror.

What he saw must have been impressive, back when night still meant that one half of the globe was immersed in space-black darkness.

He has also complained about a kind of pollution in the sky: Because of the "mist" of the Vistula he was never able to make out Mercury.

500 years and generations later, with telescopes looking deeper and deeper into the universe, people are again tipping their heads back at night and simply noting down what can be seen for the benefit of science.

Namely: less and less.

That came out when an interim assessment was made of the global citizen science project "Globe at night".

Participants look up at the night sky, then at eight cards showing the same section of sky with decreasing star visibility, and choose the one that comes closest to what they're seeing.

The satellites were wrong

More than 50,000 observations from 2011 to 2022 only allow the conclusion that light pollution is increasing rapidly: by seven to ten percent annually.

This surprised the researchers, because satellite measurements had given rise to hopes that the brightening of the night from artificial light sources such as street lamps would slowly decrease.

But the satellites probably didn't measure things correctly: advertising spaces that didn't radiate horizontally, not the high blue component in the light from LED lamps.

Countries like China, Korea or Singapore were not even included in the study; the participants came mainly from Europe, North America and Japan.

Not less, but different light and more and more of it.

Means more and more confusion among the earthlings, whose system has not planned the abolition of the night: people do not find restful deep sleep, insects tumble around lights until they die, female fireflies light up males in vain, nocturnal animals oversleep their mission, birds crash into windows.

The fight against light pollution did not make it into the new World Conservation Treaty at the last minute.

We could really use a healing look at the starry sky, one that sends the shock of our own tinyness into our limbs.