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CPRE Star Count 2021 to help map impact of light pollution across the UK

Dark starry skies are a beautiful sight, and a distinctive feature of the countryside. But too often light pollution means that many of us can't see the stars.

To celebrate our starry skies, and to help to protect our view of the stars, countryside charity CPRE is inviting the nation to take part in Star Count 2021 – a cosmic census that will help map the view of the stars and the impact of light pollution across the country.

Light pollution impacts our experience of the natural wonder of the night sky, blurs the distinction between town and countryside, and disrupts wildlife.

CPRE's Night Blight maps show that just 22% of England is untouched by light pollution. Results from the Star Count survey in 2020 revealed that 61% of participants counted 10 stars or fewer in the constellation of Orion – indicating severe light pollution.

As well as being beautiful to look at, dark skies are important for the health and wellbeing of people and animals. Too much artificial light can disturb our sleep, disrupt nature's natural cycles, and confuse wildlife.

Take part by counting stars

You can take part in this year's Star Count to help map the UK's view of the sky. The citizen science survey will take place during the darkest skies from Saturday 6 February – Sunday 14 February, inclusive.

During this time, stargazers will be asked to count the number of stars they can see, with the naked eye, within the constellation of Orion, and submit their count on the CPRE website.

The number of stars visible within the constellation of Orion is a good measurement of the amount of light pollution, and can be compared with previous years' data to show how our ability to see truly starry skies is changing. The data will also be used to produce an interactive map of the nation's view of the stars.

This year, given the coronavirus pandemic and current lockdown restrictions, supporters should not travel to take part. Star Count is a lockdown-friendly activity that can be done from home, taking part from a garden, balcony, doorstep – or even bedroom window – alone or with other members of your household.

You don't need a telescope or any equipment to take part, and it's an activity that's particularly suitable for families with children.

Star Count 2021 is taking place with support from the British Astronomical Association.

Photo by Ryan Hutton on Unsplash