The Great Worldwide Star Count
Monday night starts the Great Worldwide Star Count, a project to raise awareness of light pollution as well as collect a little data. The basic idea is simple. People around the world go out at night and look up at the constellation Cygnus (in the norhtern hemisphere) or Saggitarius (in the southern hemisphere). You compare what you see to the star charts on the web site and you have an estimate of how much light pollution there is in your neighborhood. You enter your observation into a form on the web site (along with your location) and you have just contributed a little bit to science. You can even make multiple observations from different locations. The most useful data is when a single city has data points near the center, the edge, and points in between.
Bad lighting design does more than just drown out the stars. Bad lighting design wastes energy by letting it go upward and can even create lots of bright glare and dark shadows that can decrease safety. Light pollution has many well known adverse effects on wildlife and even has been shown to increase cancer rates.
The International Dark Sky Association is the great resource for information on light pollution including sources for good lighting design and how to work with your local government addressing the issue.
The Great Worldwide Star Count begins on October 20th and runs through November 3rd. So go out and make some obsevations!
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