Light pollution: Join the Great World Wide Star Count

Posted by Laura Grant on October 20, 2008
Posted in Green News

Global city lights (Data courtesy Marc Imhoff of NASA GSFC and Christopher Elvidge of NOAA NGDC. Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC. From: Visible Earth)

If you’re interested in the night skies and the impact of light pollution on the world, the Great World Wide Star Count is a fun educational activity you can take part in with your family.

Starting tonight (October 20) until November 3 all you have to do is go outside about an hour after sunset and look at the Sagittarius constellation (if you’re in the southern hemisphere, if you’re north of the equator look for Cygnus) to see how visible it is and then share your observations as a “citizen scientist” over the Internet.

“Without even being aware of it, many of us have lost the ability to see many stars at night. Part of our goal is getting people to look up and regain an appreciation of the night sky,” says Dennis Ward of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in the United States, which is organizing the Star Count in conjunction with planetariums and scientific societies around the world.

All you need to know about participating in this even is on the Great World Wide Star Count website. It contains easy-to-follow instructions on how to find the Sagittarius (and Cygnus) constellation, how to find your geographic co-ordinates (if you don’t have a GPS handy) and there’s star “magnitude charts” with which you will match your own observations. There’s also plenty of information about astronomy to help get you started.

The first star count was held last year (2007) and drew 6,624 observations taken on all seven continents. This year, the organisers expect the number of participants to double.

Last year’s observations were used to generate maps of star visibility around the world.

There’s more information on the Windows to the Universe website

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