The U.K. star count 2020

If you live in the U.K., you can help the Countryside Charity take a survey of how dark the nighttime skies are. They’re asking people to go outside after 7 pm between February 21 and February 28, wait till their eyes adjust to the dark, and report how many stars they see inside the Orion constellation. You don’t need binoculars or telescopes or anything other than yourself and the skies and a clear night.

That last part–the clear night–is going to be hard. I can’t remember the last one we had.

It’s as useful to report from a city where you’d be lucky to see a single star as it is to report from the darks of Bodmin Moor. It’s all information. Follow the link above and you’ll find the instructions (there aren’t many) and a way to report your count.

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As long the weather’s come into the conversation, I might as well tell you that as soon as Britain’s hit by a storm big enough to earn itself a name, it will be Storm Ellen. Batten down the hatches.

Dark skies in England

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.┬áThen 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.