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!
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
Light pollution from Thanet Earth… believe it or not, it’s even worse than this now (pic Craig Solly)
Sometimes television or film shows us night skies that are quite simply jaw-dropping. They portray millions of stars, together forming a spectacle that in places turns an otherwise black sky white.
Others might be more fortunate enough to take holidays in places that allow them to be dazzled directly in person.
One thing is certain, though, and that is that such experiences cannot be enjoyed to such a degree in our corner of the world. Partly this is down to geography, but of course the main culprit denying us views of the stars is light pollution.
And light pollution doesn’t get much worse than in east Kent, where the glasshouse complex of Thanet Earth has been recorded as the second-worst offender in the country, only the Tata Steel plant in Rotherham emitting more nocturnal light.
With the expansion of Thanet Earth, the problem has of course worsened, so by now it could potentially be the worst light polluter in the land.
Either way, the extraordinary orange glow over the site can be seen from miles around, most strikingly when there is low cloud. At times, the sky appears to be on fire… this is light pollution on an epic scale.
More generally, CPRE is next month (February) highlighting the issue nationally by bringing back the Star Count.
We are all being asked to count the number of stars we can see with the naked eye within the constellation of Orion, which is only visible in winter.
The national Star Count will take place during the darkest skies from Saturday, February 2, to Saturday, February 23, giving families the chance to join in during half-term, although the darkest skies are predicted for February 2-9. Supported by the British Astronomical Association, the results from Star Count 2019 will help CPRE create a new map showing how light pollution affects the nation’s views of the night sky and raise awareness of light pollution.
This year’s count will be a small trial event, with a view to expanding it into a larger engagement piece next year. You can find out how to take part at www.cpre.org.uk/starcount
Please do join us and encourage your friends and family to do the same – we all love the stars.
To see where your nearest dark skies are, see our NightBlight maps here