What if We Couldn’t See the Stars?

Help GLOBE at Night 2013 Count the Stars

What is your life without the stars? Think about it? What if you couldn’t see the stars?   Can you step outside at night and see the Milky Way? Is your view hindered by light pollution? Can you see any stars from your home? For many people, particularly in large cities, the answers to those last two questions are abysmal: “Yes, light pollution affects my view of the sky” and “I can see only a few stars in the sky at night.”  It’s a worldwide problem, and with the astronauts’ abilities to send back pictures of Earth almost real-time, we can really see what our planet looks like as we light up outer space.

The good folks at the GLOBE at Night campaign want to know what your skies look like. GLOBE at Night is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program that encourages citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of their night sky. During five select sets of dates in 2013, you can help the project by matching the  appearance of a constellation (Orion or Leo in the northern hemisphere, and Orion and Crux in the southern hemisphere) with seven star charts of progressively fainter stars (www.globeatnight.org/observe_magnitude_orion.html).Then, you submit your findings to the www.globeatnight.org/webapp/ , providing the date, time and location of your observations. You can submit from your iphone or computer, and your data will help make an  interactive map of all worldwide observations (www.globeatnight.org/map/). Over the past 7 years of 10-day campaigns, people in 115 countries have contributed more than 83,000 measurements, making GLOBE at Night the most popular, light pollution citizen-science campaign to date (www.globeatnight.org/analyze.html). The GLOBE at Night website is easy to use, comprehensive, and holds an abundance of background information (www.globeatnight.org/learn.html and www.globeatnight.org/observe.html). Guides, activities, one-page flyers and postcards advertising the campaign are available at www.globeatnight.org/pdf/. Through GLOBE at Night, students, teachers, parents and community members are amassing a data set from which they can explore the nature of light pollution locally and across the globe. The remaining GLOBE at Night campaigns in 2013 are: March 3 – 12, March 31 – April 9, and April 29 – May 8. Make a difference and join the GLOBE at Night campaign!

In other night sky light-pollution news, last week we (a team comprising Loch Ness Productions and the International Dark-SkyAssociation) released a video called Losing the Dark. It presents the issues related to light pollution and some easy-to-implement solutions to the problem. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out below.  If you’re a planetarium person, you can get this video for your dome free of charge at the Loch Ness Productions Losing the Dark Web page. If you’re an educator, public speaker, outreach specialist, or dark-sky advocate, you can get a flat-screen HD version of the video at the International Dark-Sky Association’s Losing the Dark page.  It’s been a major hit so far, and we’d like to see it get out to as many folks as possible. Help spread the word about mitigating light pollution!

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