Dramatic reduction in light pollution during lockdown, Star Count reveals

Three times as many people took part in the 2021 Star Count than in previous years

A nationwide Star Count conducted in February has revealed a significant drop in light pollution levels across the UK.
Almost 8,000 counts were submitted from February 6-14 in the annual citizen-science project that asks people to count the number of stars they see in the Orion constellation. 
A total of 51 per cent of people noted 10 or fewer stars, indicating severe light pollution. This compares with 61 per cent during the same period last year.
Thirty or more stars indicates truly dark skies and were seen by 5 per cent of participants – the highest figure since 2013.
Lockdown is the most likely reason for this change, with reduced human activity resulting in quieter-than-usual urban areas. Similar patterns have been found with air pollution, which has also dropped across the country. 
The results have been launched to mark International Dark Skies Week, run by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA), which raises awareness on the impacts of light pollution.  
Light pollution can negatively affect human health and wildlife by disturbing animals’ natural cycles and behaviour. Badly-designed, wasteful light also contributes to climate change and obscures our connection to the universe. 
CPRE, the countryside charity, and IDSA want to combat light pollution through strong local and national policies while also protecting and enhancing existing dark skies. This involves putting the right light in the right places, such as LED lights that only illuminate where we walk and turning off lights in places like office buildings when they’re unoccupied. 
CPRE and IDSA hope this fall in people experiencing the most severe light pollution – an unintended but positive consequence of lockdown – continues long after coronavirus restrictions are lifted so more people can experience the wonder of a truly dark sky.
Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, said: “It’s been an absolutely stellar year for Star Count. We had three times as many people taking part compared with previous years and I’m delighted to see severe light pollution appears to have fallen. It’s likely this is an unintended positive consequence of lockdown, as our night-time habits have changed. Let’s hope we can hold on to some of this achievement as we ‘unlock’.
“Looking up at a starry night sky is a magical sight and one we believe everyone should be able to experience, wherever they live. And the great thing is, light pollution is one of the easiest kinds of pollution to reverse – by ensuring well-designed lighting is used only where and when needed, and that there is strong national and local government policy.”
Ruskin Hartley, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association, said: “We believe that solving the problem of light pollution begins with a realisation that the problem exists. For many people, participating in the Star Count may have been their first direct encounter an unpolluted night sky due to the loss of artificial light. 
“As realisation turns to action, we look forward to working with CPRE to bring attention and resources to turning the tide, and bringing natural night-time darkness back to more of the UK.”

  • To see the interactive map showing results from Star Count 2021, click here

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Tick tock! Time is running out to join Star Count

This year’s Star Count ends on Sunday (February 14).
Although there have been occasional clear spells, the cloud that brought snow to much of Kent this week has made conditions for stargazing far from ideal.
So, if you haven’t yet been able to take part in the count, do pop your head out every so often tonight or over the weekend to see if there’s a chance to tot up the stars you can spot within Orion.
If you don’t know where Orion is, click here
Using results from the annual Star Counts, CPRE lobbies government and local authorities to tackle light pollution and highlight which ‘dark sky’ areas need to be protected and enhanced by strong policies.
The event also increases our own knowledge of the wonderful night sky. In other words, it’s fun!

  • There is still time to join Star Count: click here

Friday, February 12, 2021

Watch The One Show on BBC tonight and enjoy a feature on Star Count

Star Count 2021 launched on Saturday and hundreds of people have already taken part.
The week-long event, organised by CPRE, the countryside charity, and the British Astronomical Association, has received widespread coverage on TV and radio and in the written media.
And now we can announce that Star Count will be featured on The One Show tonight.
Tune into BBC One from 7pm-7.30pm and you can see CPRE’s Emma Marrington beaming into the studio live and telling the nation about all things stargazing.
If you’re not already involved in Star Count, don’t worry as there’s still time! Simply sign up here, wait for a clear night, step outside and help us map the night sky.

  • To learn more about Star Count and a related video we have produced for you, click here

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

All ready for Star Count? We have a video for you to enjoy

As hopefully many of you will know, CPRE, the countryside charity, is encouraging as many of us as possible to take part in this year’s Star Count from home.
The clock is ticking and this fabulous event runs from tomorrow (Saturday, February 6) to Sunday, February 14. All you have to do is choose a clear night, look skywards and see how many stars we can spot within Orion.
And now we can offer you a video showing how to go about it! In truth, it’s not a difficult process anyway, but this is a fun feature and should sort out anything you’re not sure about. To view the video, visit the CPRE Kent Facebook page here
Seeing dark skies full of stars is something denied to far too many people. Previous Star Count results have demonstrated that light pollution is making starry skies a rarity in many parts of the country.
However, using these results from the annual Star Counts, CPRE lobbies government and local authorities to tackle light pollution and highlight which ‘dark sky’ areas need to be protected and enhanced by strong policies.
Star Count is fun and it serves a fabulous purpose in helping protect one of the greatest wonders of our world: a dark sky glittering with stars. Come on, you know you want to!

  • To take part in Star Count, click here

Friday, February 5, 2021

Star Count can inspire us in lockdown… and it’s fun

Light pollution is denying too many people the joy of a night sky (pic Craig Solly)

Running out of ideas to keep the family busy during lockdown?
If so, CPRE’s Star Count provides the ideal solution.
Next month – from Saturday, February 6, to Sunday, February 14 – CPRE, the countryside charity, is asking us all to choose a clear night, look skywards and see how many stars we can spot within Orion.
If you don’t know where Orion is, click here
There cannot be many of us who at some point have not gazed up at a starry night sky in wonder. Looking at the stars can give us a feeling of tranquillity that we experience increasingly rarely in the modern world.
Seeing dark skies full of stars is something we associate with the countryside and is part of reconnecting with the natural world. However, places to enjoy such stunning sights are becoming harder to find, even in the countryside. Sadly, previous Star Count results have demonstrated that light pollution is making starry skies a scarce sight for too many of us.
Using these results from the annual Star Counts, CPRE lobbies government and local authorities to tackle light pollution and also highlight which ‘dark sky’ areas need to be protected and enhanced by strong policies.
In short, Star Count is fun and it can help protect one of the greatest wonders of the world: a dark sky glittering with stars.

  • To learn more and join Star Count, click here



Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Be a star… and join this year’s Star Count

This year’s Star Count is being held next month.
From Saturday, February 6, to Sunday, February 14, CPRE, the countryside charity, is asking citizen scientists – that’s all of us! – to choose a clear night, look to the skies and see how many stars we can spot within Orion.
If you don’t know where Orion is, we will be offering a guiding hand between now and Star Count. We’ll keep you posted!
It’s a fantastic, easy piece of stargazing for children and adults alike – no telescopes are required – and can be done safely from your garden, balcony or bedroom window.
We are holding this event as star-filled skies provide one of the most magical sights our natural world has to offer. We want to reconnect people across the country with the wonder of a truly dark sky.
CPRE research shows light pollution is leaving fewer stars than ever visible to the naked eye – and we need your help to track how light levels are changing.
We will keep you informed throughout, but the first thing we’d like you to do is register your interest in Star Count 2021. You can do that here
We’ll catch up soon. Until then, keep safe.
To read about last year’s Star Count, click here

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Kent, Our Kent: a creative pilgrimage

We are indebted to Liz Garnett for today’s rather special contribution to Kent, Our Kent.
Liz takes up the story: “I am a photographer based in Brabourne, near Ashford, and before lockdown I was part of a group of artists walking the Augustine Camino pilgrimage route from Rochester to Ramsgate.
“We have paused our journey and in the meantime my personal journey is one of exploring the natural landscape in my garden and in the hedgerows of my little corner of rural Kent.”
Hopefully, Liz and friends will be donning their walking boots before too long and resuming their wanderings.  

  • To learn more of A Creative Pilgrimage, click here
  • Liz’s website is here

Friday, June 19, 2020

And now for some verse…

What will the Lenham Cross be looking down upon?

Something a little different in today’s Kent, Our Kent… two delightful poems from Peter Bailey.
The Pilgrims’ Way celebrates one of the nation’s walking trails, while Ode to Lenham nods to the dark threat of a new town threatening to envelop the village.

  • Click here for The Pilgrims’ Way
  • Click here for Ode to Lenham

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Kent, Our Kent: Come into the garden…

We’re gratetful to Mike Cockett for sending in a couple of lovely shots from his garden to embellish our Kent, Our Kent feature.
“Too late to catch the clematis armandii,” says Mike. No matter, these shots are just the job.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Kent, Our Kent: beautiful bluebells, from any angle

The bluebells in our woodlands are now starting to fade, or ‘go over’, so we’d better move quickly to include this selection of images from Vicky Ellis in Kent, Our Kent.
“Some of them are at a bit of an odd angle, but I like being creative,” said Vicky.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Kent, Our Kent: a delightful view from the saddle

We are indebted to Alex Hills for today’s Kent, Our Kent contribution. Alex is CPRE Kent’s Gravesham district chairman and also a keen cyclist…

Today’s ride was to test my legs after a week off the bike and to test it out after the wheel was repaired.
From home it was a short run down the A227 and out along the cycle path to Thong. Then it was a drop down to Lower Higham Road, which is a bleak but beautiful area on the Gravesend-Higham border. This area is always winding, being next to the River Thames, but the light means the colours are always changing.
Then there were some big breaths before a lung-busting climb back up to the Cobham war memorial, which is one of my key local markers. The views from Cobhambury Road always recharge my soul and, with less air pollution, the views are better than ever.
I never tire of the beauty of the views despite my tendency to hit high speeds on this downhill section, which has no sharp bends or potholes so is very much cycling heaven.

Next is a short run along the valley floor, stopping off to check on a local badger sett. Checking on setts while on rides is something I try to do as often as I can as it means someone else does not have to make a special trip out and gives me a focus to the ride.
When I get to the now-quiet Golden Lion pub, it is down through the gears for the long climb up Henley Street, going past the very good beer pub The Cock Inn.
At the top of the hill a few lanes take me to Whitepost Lane, which leads into Nurstead Church Lane. This wonderful road covered over in trees looks different each time I go down it.
Even though this is a few minutes from my house and I cycle down it at least twice a week, I always look forward to cycling along this road. Near the top is the old Nurstead Church – I am pagan so have never been in it but the outside has a medieval feel about it.
After the church it was a dash across the A227 before a test of nerve down the steep, twisting Park Pale Road and then down through the gears for the climb back up the other side.

Heart pounding, lungs heaving at Stony Corner, I was rewarded with a great view. From there is a short drop down the very dangerous Walnut Hill Road before another short run and a final climb home.
Living on top of a hill means tired legs always have one more climb before a welcome brew and rest. People say you take for granted the beauty on your doorstep, but I never have, which is probably why I fight so hard to protect it.
Since the lockdown the speed of cars has increased – please, please keep your speed down. Driving in the countryside, you must never go faster than you can stop and around every bend you must assume there will be a horse, cyclist or walker.

If you like to contribute to Kent, Our Kent, please send your photos and a brief description to david.mairs@cprekent.org.uk

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Kent, Our Kent: the beauty way out west

The viewpoint from Roughway, near Plaxtol, overlooking Hadlow
Bluebells in Mereworth Woods
Apple blossom in Hadlow

Today’s contribution for Kent, Our Kent comes from Jackie Moxey.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Jackie is daughter of Tricia Moxey, once of this county and now vice-chairman of CPRE Essex.
The pictures were taken on a walk in the Hadlow and Plaxtol area. Thanks, Jackie!

If you like to contribute to Kent, Our Kent, please send your photos and a brief description to david.mairs@cprekent.org.uk

Thursday, May 7, 2020