The introduction of the mercury vapor lamp for general lighting in the 1930s probably marked the beginning of significant light pollution. Lighting levels have increased slowly, year-to-year, with sky brightness levels increasing only slowly on timescales of a year; no measurement protocols or instruments existed to quantify this increase. However, on timescales of 10--20 years, or on generational timescales, the increases in night sky levels, particularly in urban areas, have been dramatic. Younger people speak with their parents or grandparents who remark how beautiful the sky used to be, and how many stars they could see when they when they were younger. Older people can themselves remember how many stars were visible in the sky when they were younger. Whole generations of children now grow up without ever seeing the Milky Way.
Society has not had tools to easily measure sky brightness, and monitoring from space has only recently become available. A subtle increase of 10% sky brightness per year, for example, is not noticeable to the human eye on the time scale of a year, and has been tolerated by society. But such an increase compounds to an increase of a factor 2.6 in 10 years, 6.7 in 20 years, and a factor 45 in 40 years, corresponding to a dramatic increase in sky brightness, an almost complete loss in ability to see faint objects in the night sky, and rendering the sky unusable for most forms of astronomy. The most striking examples are the urban observatories found in many major cities that can no longer be used.
Session 2 was primarily focused on measurement of light at night, with an emphasis on measurement of light pollution. It comprised of 6 papers that are summarized below. Over the last decade, our ability to measure light pollution has grown tremendously, and the instrumentation needed to produce reliable quantitative measurements has become much more affordable, and now includes consumer grade digital cameras and even smart phones. During this same time period, light pollution has continued to grow. The widespread changes from mostly high-pressure sodium lighting to LED lighting that are now occurring make continued monitoring and measurement of light pollution particularly important into the future.
Complete presentations may be viewed at: http://www.noao.edu/education/IAUGA2015FM21