IF you want to get a look at the night sky while you are in Asia, you will need to pick and choose. When it comes to light pollution, where you are varies enormously, and some spots are so drowned in lights that seeing stars is almost impossible.
A large component of light pollution comes as a result of street lighting, but it also includes billboards, light from homes and headlights on cars. As well as blocking out picturesque views of the Milky Way, light pollution also causes difficulties with astronomical research, ruins ecosystems and can even cause retinal damage.
With that in mind, if you are holidaying in Asia, then location is everything if you want to get the best view of the night skies in this part of the world.
In 2016, Singapore stole the crown from Hong Kong as the most light-polluted place not just in Asia, but the world.
Amazingly, according to a study in The New World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness, this city-state has a light pollution rate of 100 percent and light pollution levels are higher than those considered tolerable per capita. This also means that you can’t see the Milky Way anywhere in Singapore.
Indonesia varies widely when it comes to light pollution. According to photographs taken by NASA, the most light-polluted part of the county is Java which is lit up at night even in rural areas.
This is hardly surprising considering 130 million people live on the island, but unusually the light pollution is not just found around cities like Jakarta and Surabaya, but also extends to main roads between cities and smaller towns and villages.
On the flipside, spots like Kalimantan and Papua have barely any light pollution at all, especially outside of the main cities like Pontianak in Kalimantan.
Despite being dethroned by Singapore as the world’s most light-polluted place, Hong Kong still has a huge problem with light pollution. In urban areas such as Tsim Sha Tsui, the light pollution has been measured and found to be 1,200 times brighter than the normal night sky.
This is a problem in Hong Kong as it has led to fears for the local ecosystem such as fireflies being unable to breed as they can no longer signal to their mates using their famous lights.
The only other Asian country in the top 10 most light polluted countries in the world, alongside Singapore, is South Korea which comes in at number six on the list.
This is hardly surprising to anyone who has visited this country, as neon signage is a firm favorite along with street lighting across much of the country, even in rural areas.
The problem is so bad that complaints from residents are on the rise and many South Koreans have reported they have problems sleeping at night due to the severe light pollution.
There is still hope in Asia if you love stargazing. One country stands out above all others with its crystal clear views of the ether – North Korea.
The pariah state run by 33-year-old dictator Kim Jong Un is so dirt-poor that it has to turn its lights off at night which results in almost zero light pollution.
If you do see the sky light up at night in Pyongyang, then it may well be a nuclear missile fired in the direction of Japan rather than a street light.