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Kyba, C. C. M., Ruhtz, T., Fischer, J., & Hölker, F. (2011). Lunar skylight polarization signal polluted by urban lighting. J. Geophys. Res., 116(D24).
Abstract: On clear moonlit nights, a band of highly polarized light stretches across the sky at a 90 degree angle from the moon, and it was recently demonstrated that nocturnal organisms are able to navigate based on it. Urban skyglow is believed to be almost unpolarized, and is therefore expected to dilute this unique partially linearly polarized signal. We found that urban skyglow has a greater than expected degree of linear polarization (p = 8.6 Â± 0.3%), and confirmed that its presence diminishes the natural lunar polarization signal. We also observed that the degree of linear polarization can be reduced as the moon rises, due to the misalignment between the polarization angles of the skyglow and scattered moonlight. Under near ideal observing conditions, we found that the lunar polarization signal was clearly visible (p = 29.2 Â± 0.8%) at a site with minimal light pollution 28 km from Berlin's center, but was reduced (p = 11.3 Â± 0.3%) within the city itself. Daytime measurements indicate that without skyglow pwould likely be in excess of 50%. These results indicate that nocturnal animal navigation systems based on perceiving polarized scattered moonlight likely fail to operate properly in highly light-polluted areas, and that future light pollution models must take polarization into account.