Gloucestershire Campaign to Protect Rural England

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Cosmic census gets the nation counting stars

Friday, 01 February 2019 08:43

1 February 2019

CPRE is inviting everyone to take part in Star Count 2019 to help map our magical dark skies. The nationwide Star Count, which is also supported by the British Astronomical Association, goes live tomorrow, and will be running for the first three weeks of February (Saturday 2 February – Saturday 23 February)

Star Count 2019, organised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) gives people the opportunity to become ‘citizen scientists’ by taking part in a cosmic census that will help to map our dark skies [1].

The nationwide Star Count is also supported by the British Astronomical Association [2]. Stargazers, whether in town or countryside, are asked to count the number of stars they can see (with the naked eye) within the constellation of Orion, which is only visible in the winter months [3].

As well as promoting dark skies and engaging people in the wonders of stargazing, CPRE aims to highlight the blight that light pollution – an issue often overlooked – is causing our dark skies, and its subsequent impact on people and nature. Not only does light pollution prevent people from enjoying the beauty of a starry sky, it can seriously disrupt wildlife behaviour and badly affect people’s sleeping patterns, impacting on physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Emma Marrington, dark skies campaigner at CPRE, said:

‘A dark sky filled with stars is one of the most magical sights our countryside has to offer, and for thousands of years our night sky has been a source of information, fascination and inspiration for all of humanity. Increasingly, however, too many people are denied the opportunity to experience this truly natural wonder.

‘We want as many people as possible, from right across the country, to get out and get involved with Star Count 2019. How many stars you will see ultimately depends upon the level of light pollution in your area, but by counting stars and helping us to map our dark skies, together we can fight back against light pollution and reclaim the night sky.’

Bob Mizon, UK coordinator of the British Astronomical Association Commission for Dark Skies, said:

‘Star counts are not only fun things to do in themselves but also help to form the national picture of the changing state of our night skies. As lighting in the UK undergoes the sweeping change to LEDs, it is really important that we know whether or not they are helping to counter the light pollution that has veiled the starry skies for most Britons for the last few decades.’

The countryside charity will use the results from Star Count 2019 to create a new map to show how light pollution is affecting the nation’s views of the night sky. CPRE’s Night Blight maps [4], based on satellite data, showed that just 22% of England is untouched by light pollution, and that more than half of our darkest skies are over National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty [5].

Through the Star Count, CPRE will be able to provide more detailed and up-to-date information on the impact that light pollution is having on people’s experience of dark skies. Using this information CPRE will work with local and national Government to ensure that appropriate lighting is used only where it’s needed – helping to reduce carbon emissions, save money, and protect and enhance our dark skies.

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

  1. The British Astronomical Association is Britain’s largest astronomical organisation, with thousands of members nation-wide. Its Campaign for Dark Skies was founded in 1989, and aims to ensure quality lighting in the UK. A well-lit environment below and a view of the starry sky above are not incompatible.
  1. Star Count 2019 will take part between Saturday 2 and Saturday 23 February 2019.
    How to take part:

-          Try to do your count on a night when the sky is clear, with no haze or clouds, then wait until after 7pm so the sky is really dark.

-          Looking south into the night sky, find the Orion constellation, with its four corners and ‘three-star belt’. Take a few moments to let your eyes adjust, then simply count the number of stars you can see within the rectangle made by the four corner stars. You should not count the corners, but you can count the three stars in the middle (the belt).

-          Count and make a note of the number of stars seen with the naked eye (not with telescopes or binoculars) and then simply complete the online survey form: www.cpre.org.uk/starcount

-          Share your experiences with others on social media using #starcount2019 @CPRE @BritAstro

-          Check back to see the national results and see how your area compares to the rest of the country.

  1. CPRE’s Night Blight mapping: https://www.nightblight.cpre.org.uk
  1. Night Blight: Mapping England’s light pollution and dark skies: https://www.nightblight.cpre.org.uk/images/resources/Night_Blight_cpre.pdf

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Emma Bridgewater, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen. www.cpre.org.uk

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