Starry, starry night? People urged to help assess lockdown’s impact on night sky

Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent
·2-min read

People are being urged to take part in a nationwide star count to see if lockdown has had an impact on light pollution.

By counting stars within the constellation of Orion, “citizen scientists” will help map the best and worst places in England to enjoy a star-filled night sky, organisers said.

The information on light pollution will be used in efforts to secure darker skies which improve health and wellbeing, protect wildlife, and allow people to enjoy starry nights, CPRE, the countryside charity, and the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies said.

And data from this year’s annual survey will be compared with 2020’s findings to see what, if any, impact lockdown has had.

Last year’s star count, which took place before coronavirus restrictions took hold, revealed 61% of people taking part lived with severe light pollution.

To take part, people just need to look up from their garden, balcony, doorstep or even bedroom during February 6-14 2021, during a clear night and count how many stars within the constellation of Orion they can spot.

The area of the night sky that the citizen science survey focuses on (CPRE/PA)
The area of the night sky that the citizen science survey focuses on (CPRE/PA)

CPRE chief executive Crispin Truman said: “A starry night sky is one of the most magical sights the countryside can offer, connecting us to the nature we all love and the wonders of the wider universe.

“Dark skies are also crucial for our health and for that of wildlife. Lockdown and the coronavirus have reminded us about how good for us the countryside can be.”

He said many places suffered from light pollution “bleaching out the night sky”, but the campaign group aimed to change that.

“By taking part in star count, people will be helping us to lobby the Government for more protection of this too often overlooked, but vital, part of our countryside,” he said.

Bob Mizon, UK coordinator, British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies, added: “Turning back the tide of light pollution brings darker night skies and improvements to the wellbeing of humans, wildlife and the environment.

“The CPRE star count is an important part of this work, especially in these abnormal times when we have a chance to see whether changes in our activities are having any positive effect on the atmosphere and our view of the night sky.”