The Campaign to Protect Rural England is asking people to help measure how dark England’s skies are. To participate, you look for the constellation Orion and see how many stars you can count inside it without using binoculars or a telescope. Only you have to do it sometime between this exact minute and February 23.
And if this exact minute happens to be noon? You wait till after 7 pm because night is when it gets dark.
Do I have to explain everything?
The best time to do this is the first week of February, when there’ll be less light from the moon. You also want to wait for a good clear night, otherwise the exercise is pointless. If you see ten or fewer stars (not counting the corner stars), you’re in a light-polluted area. Thirty or more is dark, dark, dark.
To find Orion, you read the article I linked to above, because there’s no point in me repeating it, then you take a look at the photo in this one, which gives you a better idea of what Orion looks like and where the corner stars are. Then you go back to the first site and report your findings.
The point of the exercise is to raise awareness of light pollution, which according the campaign interferes with sleep patterns in humans and messes with wildlife, and to get localities to modify their lighting as much as possible.
The point of me writing about this is that it’s good to know that someone cares, and that people can pitch in. Even though, I admit, it’s a long way from being the biggest problem we face.