Public asked to count stars to help map light pollution

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Rural campaigners and astronomers are looking to recruit amateur star-gazers to help them map light pollution during their national Star Count Week starting on Friday January 20.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England and the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies are asking people to take part in the 2012 Star Count Week between January 20 and 27.

Star gazers are asked to count the number of stars they can see within the constellation of Orion. The results will help create a 2012 Star Count map, illustrating how light pollution is affecting the view of the night sky across the UK.

Emma Marrington, Rural Policy Campaigner at CPRE, said: “Light pollution may not seem to be the most serious environmental issue, but it has a range of significant impacts.

“It damages the character of the countryside, blurs the distinction between town and country, and denies people the experience of a dark, starry sky. Light pollution can disrupt wildlife and badly affect people’s sleeping patterns.”

Information gathered during the 2011 Star Count week last January showed that the proportion of people taking part in the survey who are living with severe light pollution increased from 54 per cent in 2007 to a new high of 59 per cent. Only eight per cent of participants could see more then 20 stars and just one per cent of people had truly dark skies, seeing 30 or more stars.

Bob Mizon, Campaign for Dark Skies Coordinator, said: “The Star Count survey will help us measure the extent of light pollution.

“We want to use this evidence to convince Ministers and local councils of the need to take action to tackle it, for example by ensuring that the correct lighting is used only where it is needed and when it is needed. This would cut light pollution, reduce carbon emissions and save money at the same time.”

It is simple and easy to take part in Star Count Week 2012 and people can sign up for an email reminder to take part. Full instructions are available on the CPRE website www.cpre.org.uk/starcount.