Not so starry night: light pollution spoils the view of astronomers | Science


Light pollution is preventing a starry view of the night sky for more than half of people across England, according to a census.

Fifty-seven percent of astronomers struggled to see more than 10 stars, while only 2% of participants said they experienced "truly dark skies," allowing them to count more than 30, according to campaign research to protect rural England (ERCP).

People in the cities and countryside were encouraged to count how many stars they could see with the naked eye within the constellation Orion, which is visible only in the winter months.

Activists said that the results of the star count, backed by the British Astronomical Association, demonstrated the problem of light pollution and how it affected "one of the most magical sights in the field – a dark, starry night sky."

They said that the results of the survey to map the night skies of England suggest that more could be done by the government, local councils and the general public to lessen the negative effects of artificial light from streets and buildings.

Emma Marrington, a dark skies advocate at ERCP, said: "We are immensely grateful to many people who took the time to go out and participate in our star count. But it is profoundly disappointing that the vast majority have failed to experience the natural wonder of a truly dark, star-studded sky. 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 results of the star count show how far the brightness of street lights and buildings can be seen. Light does not respect the limits and careless use can cause it to spread through miles of cities, towns, businesses and highways. "

She suggested better-designed lighting, street lighting schemes and night lighting – where, in consultation with local communities and police, some street lights are turned off during the early hours of the night – it could offer an opportunity to limit the damage caused by light pollution . , reduce carbon emissions and save money.

The CPRE said the star count, which occurred in the first three weeks of February, involved 2,300 people. Full results are available on their website.


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