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Belgian motorway lights visible from space attract global attention

00:00 23/05/2017

Why is our country so bright? De Morgen asked in a recent article. The whole world is fascinated by Belgium’s enthusiasm for light.

It all started a few weeks ago when French astronaut Thomas Pesquet posted a photograph on his Facebook page. Taken from the International Space Station, it showed Europe at night.

Pesquet added a comment below the photo saying Belgium clearly distinguishes itself, as usual. The internet went crazy, according to De Morgen.

The photos sparked off tens of thousands of responses on Facebook and international media, from the BBC to the New York Times asked themselves why our country is so bright.

So what made Belgium glow so brightly compared to other areas on earth? The foreign press shed some light on the source of the light pollution.

The country’s dense road network is almost totally lit up, and the lights stay on the whole night long, the BBC reported.

The New York Times then came up with some hard figures. The country uses roughly 2.2 million lightbulbs to light up its roads. That works out to 186 lights per square mile.

The comments were far from positive. "What a waste," someone said. "I hope the Belgians stop lighting up the highways this way," someone else added, "unless they want aliens from outer space to land".

But the Flemish Road Traffic Agency – was quick to defend itself. "It’s true that we shine out, but it’s less than before," said a spokesperson.

Back in 2011 the then minister for public works Hilde Crevits turned out the lights on motorways and regional highways between midnight and 6.00.

Still, the Bond Beter Leefmilieu is calling for less street lighting. Light pollution leads to sleep disorders in humans. And animals experience problems because of disrupted winter hibernation.

It seems Belgium needs to dim the lights.

Photo: Thomas Pesquet/European Space Agency/Nasa

Written by Derek Blyth (Flanders Today)