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Star Count 2022

26th February 2022

Nationwide star count 26th February to 6th March to map light pollution in our skies

People living in Dorset are being asked to take part in an annual Star Count, 26th February to 6th March, to record how clear our view is of the night sky. CPRE is working with the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies to map light pollution levels across the country.

Dark night skies are a special quality of the Dorset AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and contribute to the areas sense of tranquillity and remoteness. The Cranborne Chase AONB (overlapping the boundaries of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset) was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve in October 2019. A combination of clear night skies and low levels of light pollution make Dorset one of the best places in the country for stargazing.

In the biggest citizen science project of its kind, people are being asked to count the number of stars they see in the Orion constellation to help map the best and worst places in the UK to enjoy a star-filled night sky. The results will be compared with 2021’s findings, gathered during lockdown, which revealed a notable drop in the number of people experiencing severe light pollution given urban areas were much quieter and fewer large buildings were in use.

A clear view of a star-filled night sky has a hugely beneficial effect on our mental health and, like access to other forms of nature, helps reduce stress and increase a sense of peace and wellbeing. Research has even shown that regularly spending time looking at the stars can lower blood pressure and reduce depression. Yet, the night sky, which is a hugely significant part of our natural environment, has no legal protection.

In 2021, over 7,000 people took part in CPRE’s Star Count. The proportion of people reporting ‘severe light pollution’, defined as ten stars or fewer being visible to the naked eye in the Orion constellation, had declined from 61% to 51%. The proportion of ‘truly dark skies’, defined as over 30 stars being visible within the Orion constellation, had increased from 3% to 5%. This was likely due to the count taking place during lockdown, with reduced levels of artificial light leading to a clearer view of the night sky.

Now people are being urged to once again come together for one of the nation’s biggest citizen science projects to help discover if light pollution has increased since the end of lockdown – and where the best views of the stars can be found. Submit your star count results here.

Bob Mizon, of the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies, and lives in Dorset said:

‘The night sky is a great antidote to the stresses of modern life; you go out, look up and suddenly everything is calm. The stars made every atom in our bodies; they are our chemical parents. They’re intimately connected to us and even in these light polluted days people have a real desire to see the stars.

‘Just as we have an affinity with trees and the rest of nature, we have a connection to the night sky. It is literally 50 per cent of our environment – from east to west – and it is the only part of our environment that has no protection in law. People are very rapidly coming to the conclusion that what we do to the environment has a direct impact on our wellbeing. The same as coral reefs dying off and rivers clogged with plastic bags – one more aspect of our impact on the environment is our pollution of the night sky and yet it is completely unprotected.’

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