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

Thousands join Star Count 2020 to show the value of dark skies

In February, more than 2,400 people across the country took part in a star-counting survey run by CPRE, the countryside charity. By counting the number of stars visible in the constellation of Orion, it helps build up a picture of the nation’s views of the night sky.
CPRE believes that a star-filled night sky is one of the most magical sights of the countryside. And throughout the coronavirus lockdown, gazing up at the stars will have brought comfort to many. Yet light pollution can spread from towns and cities into the countryside, denying many people the chance to experience the wonder and tranquillity of seeing a sky full of stars.
The results of this citizen science survey, carried out annually, suggest that across the UK 61 per cent of people are in areas with severe light pollution, counting fewer than 10 stars. This is a rise of 4 per cent from last year, when 57 per cent of people taking part were in these areas.
Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive, said: “Gazing up at the heavens can inspire and help lift our spirits, especially when many of us are forced to do so from within our homes at the moment. It is a shame that few of us can see the starry skies in all their glory, without the intrusion of light pollution.”
There was some good news at the other end of the scale, with 3 per cent of people counting more than 30 stars within Orion, meaning they were in areas with truly dark skies. That’s a rise from 2 per cent in 2019.
Families who took part and were able to see plenty of stars on the night of their count reported how much they loved the experience. In addition, 99 per cent of star-counters asked said they believed that every child should be able to experience the wonder of a star-filled night sky.
Bob Mizon from the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS) said: “It’s wonderful to hear about families having fun doing the Star Count. Children should be able to see the Milky Way, their own galaxy, by looking up at the sky, not looking online!”
CPRE and CfDS believe that councils have the power to give people better views of the night sky. And, when asked, 82 per cent of star-counters responding to a survey said their local council should do more to tackle light pollution.
Mr Truman added: “We’d like to see councils adopting better policies in local plans to tackle light pollution and protect and enhance our darkest skies, where people can still experience the wonder of a star-filled night sky.
“There are straightforward steps councils can take, in consultation with local people, that don’t just reduce light pollution but save energy and money, too.’

  • See the map with the results of CPRE’s Star Count 2020 here

Friday, May 29, 2020

Be a star… get out and count the stars

CPRE’s Star Count… a highlight of the year for many

This week, CPRE, the countryside charity, is inviting everyone to join in with Star Count 2020, a fun and easy way to enjoy the wonders of the universe.
By simply counting the number of stars they can see in the Orion constellation up until Friday, February 28, those taking part will help map the best and worst places to see the awesome sight of a star-filled night sky.
Throughout history, people have gazed up at the magical starry night sky in wonder and used the cosmos to navigate. Looking at the stars we get a feeling of tranquillity rarely experienced in today’s frantic lives.
Seeing dark skies full of stars is something we associate with the countryside, and part of reconnecting with the natural world. However, places to view these spellbinding sights are becoming harder to find, even in the countryside.
Last year’s Star Count results showed that light pollution, often caused by the glow and glare from street and outdoor household and sports lighting, is making beautiful starry skies a rare sight for many of us.
Just 2 per cent of people who took part in Star Count 2019 told us they were viewing a truly dark sky.
Emma Marrington, CPRE’s starry skies expert, said: “A starry night sky is one of the most magical sights the countryside can offer, connecting people to such an important part of our natural heritage. But many people don’t get to experience this beauty due to light pollution. We want to get people out counting the stars and helping to save them now and for future generations to enjoy!”
As well as preventing us from seeing the stars and wonders of our Milky Way galaxy, the Northern Lights and meteors (shooting stars), light pollution has serious impacts. It disrupts the natural behaviour of wildlife and can be harmful for our health. It’s also a waste of energy at a time when many people are trying to live more sustainably.
Using the results from the annual Star Count, CPRE will lobby the government and local authorities to tackle light pollution and also highlight which ‘dark sky’ areas need to be protected and enhanced by strong policies.
CPRE’s Star Count is supported by the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS).
Expert astronomer Bob Mizon from the CfDS said: “As well as being a wonderful opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the night sky, Star Count is starting to give us some really useful information. We’re hoping many more people will join in this year and give us the best map ever.”
To take part, star counters are asked to choose a clear night this week.
Without using a telescope of binoculars, people can then count the stars within the rectangle shape formed by Orion, except the four stars on the outer corners, then submit their results at cpre.org.uk/starcount

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Star Count attracts thousands as problem of light pollution shines bright

A record 2,300 people took part in this year’s Star Count.
The count, held over the first three weeks of February, revealed that just 2% of participants experienced the wonders of a truly dark sky full of stars, due to the impact of light pollution caused by street lighting and other artificial lights, even in the countryside.
CPRE is calling for action to tackle light pollution and enable more people to enjoy the beauty of a starry sky.
The cosmic census, which was supported by the British Astronomical Association, aimed to promote dark skies and engage people in the wonders of stargazing. Star-spotters submitted the number of stars they could see within the constellation of Orion and the results used to create an interactive map displaying people’s view of the night sky. But it also demonstrated the impact that light pollution is having on people’s view of the stars.
Well over half of all participants (57%) failed to see more than 10 stars, meaning they are severely impacted by light pollution. In contrast, only 9% of people experienced ‘dark skies’, counting between 21 and 30 stars, while just 2% experienced ‘truly dark skies’ and were able to count more than 30 stars – half the proportion of people able to do so during the previous Star Count, in 2014.
CPRE suggests the results show we can do more to combat light pollution. Given its detrimental impact – not just on people’s view of the night sky but also the behaviour of nature and wildlife, as well as human health – we are urging the government, local councils and general public to do more to limit the impact of artificial light from streets and buildings.
Emma Marrington, dark skies campaigner at CPRE, said: “We’re hugely grateful to the many people who took the time to get out and take part in our Star Count. But it’s deeply disappointing that the vast majority were unable to experience the natural wonder of a truly dark sky, blanketed with stars. Without intervention, our night sky will continue to be lost under a veil of artificial light, to the detriment of our own health, and the health of the natural world.
“The Star Count results show just how far-reaching the glow from streetlights and buildings can be seen. Light doesn’t respect boundaries, and careless use can see it spread for miles from towns, cities, businesses and motorways, resulting in the loss of one of the countryside’s most magical sights – a dark, starry night sky.
“By using well-designed lighting only when and where it is needed, investing in street light dimming schemes and considering part-night lighting – which should of course be done in consultation with the local community and police – councils have a fantastic opportunity to limit the damage caused by light pollution, reduce carbon emissions and save money.”

  • See the interactive map showing people’s view of the night sky here

Wednesday, August 9, 2019

Eyes to the skies, the Star Count starts tomorrow

You can play your part in monitoring light pollution

This year’s Star Count (see here) goes live tomorrow (Saturday, February 2).
Organised by CPRE, it gives you the chance to become ‘citizen scientists’ by taking part in a cosmic census helping to map our dark skies.
The nationwide Star Count, supported by the British Astronomical Association, runs for the first three weeks of February (until Saturday, February 23). Wherever you are, you’re being asked to count the number of stars you can see with the naked eye within the constellation of Orion.
As well as promoting dark skies and engaging people in the wonders of stargazing, CPRE aims to highlight the blight that light pollution is causing our dark skies and its impact on people and nature.
Not only does light pollution prevent people from enjoying the beauty of a starry sky, it can disrupt wildlife behaviour and affect people’s sleeping patterns, impacting on physical and mental health and well-being.
Emma Marrington, dark skies campaigner at CPRE, said: “A dark sky filled with stars is one of the most magical sights our countryside has to offer and for thousands of years our night sky has been a source of information, fascination and inspiration.
“Increasingly, however, too many people are denied the opportunity to experience this truly natural wonder.
“We want as many people as possible, from right across the country, to get out and get involved with Star Count 2019.
“How many stars you will see ultimately depends upon the level of light pollution in your area, but by counting stars and helping us to map our dark skies, together we can fight back against light pollution and reclaim the night sky.”
Bob Mizon, UK coordinator of the British Astronomical Association Commission for Dark Skies, added: “Star counts are not only fun things to do in themselves but also help to form the national picture of the changing state of our night skies.
“As lighting in the UK undergoes the sweeping change to LEDs, it is really important that we know whether or not they are helping to counter the light pollution that has veiled the starry skies for most Britons for the last few decades.”
CPRE will use the results from Star Count 2019 to create a new map showing how light pollution is affecting the nation’s views of the night sky.
Our Night Blight maps, based on satellite data, showed that just 22 per cent of England is untouched by light pollution and that more than half of our darkest skies are over National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Through the Star Count, we will be able to provide more detailed and up-to-date information on the impact light pollution is having on people’s experience of dark skies.
With this information, CPRE will work with local and national government to ensure that appropriate lighting is used only where it’s needed – helping to reduce carbon emissions, save money and protect and enhance our dark skies.

  • To find out how to take part in Star Count 2019, see here
  • To see where your nearest dark skies are, see our NightBlight maps here

Friday, February 1, 2019