Starry skies are one of the most magical sights the countryside can offer. Light pollution not only limits our views of these skies but also disrupts wildlife’s natural patterns. We want to reclaim our dark skies. Can you help us by counting stars to measure our dark skies?
The Countryside Charity (CPRE) together with the British Astronomical Association are running their annual Star Count
What is Star Count?
The star count helps us to see where light pollution is a problem and where the darkest skies are. We use this evidence to advocate for better-controlled lighting, and we offer advice about what we can all do to reduce local light pollution.
We’re asking people from all across the country to become ‘citizen scientists’ and look heavenwards for one night. Join in by choosing a clear night between 26 February and 6 March 2022 and becoming a stargazer.
With support from the British Astronomical Association, we want you to look up at the constellation Orion and let us know how many stars you can count. Once you’ve done your star-spotting, use this simple online form to quickly and easily send us your count – and then we get busy with our number-crunching.
Here’s why we believe it matters so much
Artificial light doesn’t respect boundaries. It can spread for miles, bleeding out from built-up areas and into the skies over our countryside. This is why we care about this issue; inky, star-strewn skies are one of the things that make our countryside so special, and we’re working to make sure that we can all experience truly dark night skies.
CPRE makes sure that everything we do is informed by the climate emergency, which gives us another reason to take a look at the light emitted by our roads and buildings.
The most recent figures suggested that lighting could account for as much as 30% of some councils’ carbon emissions. The more this can be reduced, the better for the environment.
Since the 1990s we’ve campaigned for policies to reduce light pollution, partnering with others such as the British Astronomical Association, and in 2012 a national planning policy to control lighting was introduced as a result.
It confirmed all the reasons we know dark skies are important, including limiting impacts on ‘intrinsically dark landscapes and nature conservation’. This point about nature is, we think, an essential one.
For example, research has suggested that moths, which play an important role in pollinating flowers during their nocturnal activity and have declined in abundance by 40%, might have been disrupted by light pollution – but that this can be alleviated by the use of lower energy lighting or part-time night lighting.
Your results from Star Count will help us make a map of where star-spotters are enjoying deep, dark 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.
How to take part in Star Count
Here are a few top tips for a brilliant Star Count evening :
1. Try to pick a clear night for your count, with no haze or clouds, then wait until after 7pm so the sky is really dark.
2. Looking south into the night sky, find the Orion constellation, with its four corners and ‘three-star belt’.
3. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness for as long as possible (we recommend at least 20 minutes), then count the stars that you can see within the four corners of Orion (check out the picture below which shows you how, and more top tips in our full article)
4. Make a note of the number of stars seen with the naked eye and submit your count on our website on our quick online form
5. Share your experiences (and any photos) with others on social media using #StarCount
6. And don’t forget to check back to see the national results and how your area compares to the rest of the country!
You can do your 2022 Star Count on any night between 26 February and 6 March 2022. Keep your eyes peeled for weather forecasts to pick a night with skies that are as clear as possible.