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Countryside charity CPRE and British Astronomical Association calls for citizen scientists to participate in annual Star Count

By Abbie Duncan

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THE charity CPRE are asking for participants in a national science project this week to evaluate the impact of light pollution on our skies.

The study hopes to help protect the night sky and find the best places for star spotters to visit. Picture: David Macleod.
The study hopes to help protect the night sky and find the best places for star spotters to visit. Picture: David Macleod.

Star Count, which takes place from February 26 to March 6 is the largest light pollution study in the country. The project encourages people to record how clear their view is of the night sky so that scientists can evaluate the impact of light pollution.

Working alongside the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies, CPRE are asking the public to count the number of stars they can see in the Orion constellation, to help analyse the impact of light pollution and map the best and worst places in the UK to enjoy a star-filled night sky.

Light pollution means many people only experience a limited view of the night sky, and it also disrupts wildlife’s natural patterns. By showing where views are most affected by light pollution, the evidence gathered in the study can be used to help protect and enhance the nation’s dark skies, improving our health, wellbeing, wildlife and the environment.

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said: "The night sky is one half of our experience of nature; but we don’t often think of it like that. In and of itself, it helps balance our mental health and boost our emotional wellbeing.

But our view of the night sky – and all the benefits it undoubtedly brings – is being blotted out by light pollution. Like all forms of pollution, it is damaging our mental and physical health, and also having a severe impact on wildlife. Yet, it is a form of pollution that is allowed to increase year on year without any effort being made to control the damage it is causing."

In 2021, over 7,000 people took part in CPRE’s Star Count which noted a decrease in light pollution in urban areas. The results from this years study will be especially important, to compare how levels have changed since the reduction of Coronavirus restrictions in the UK.

Emma Marrington, CPRE dark skies campaigner, said:

"We need your help to find out if light pollution has increased over the past year and if more people are experiencing darker night skies. The results from Star Count will help us create a map of where star-spotters are enjoying deep, dark star-filled skies. By showing on a map where light pollution is most serious, we can work with local councils and others to decide what to do about it.

Star Count is a great way to switch off from the distractions of daily life and reconnect with nature – and by taking part as a citizen scientist, you can help us protect and improve everyone’s view of a clear, sparkling night sky."

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