Dorset stargazers are being recruited to take part in a cosmic census this week.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is putting out a call to “citizen scientists” to join in Star Count 2014 to help tackle light pollution.
Last year 40 per cent of people who did the survey in the South West spotted fewer than ten stars, indicating severe light pollution in the region.
Countryside campaigners CPRE and the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies, in partnership with National Astronomy Week, are asking stargazers to count the number of stars they can see with the naked eye in the constellation of Orion any night until Saturday.
Everyone who joins in will have the chance to win a telescope.
Emma Marrington, CPRE Dark Skies campaigner, said: “The Star Count survey can help us build a picture of how light pollution is affecting views of the night sky in the South West of England.
“We’ll use the results that local people submit to persuade ministers and local councils to reduce light pollution.
“This will also help cut carbon emissions and save money through streetlight switch-off or dimming schemes and low energy lighting. If we’re to reclaim our wondrous night skies, we need all councils to take action.
“Light pollution may not seem the most serious environmental threat, but it can ruin the countryside’s tranquil character, blur the distinction between town and country, affect wildlife and deny us the experience of a truly deep, dark and starry sky.
“We must take action now.”
To join in the Star Count spend a couple of minutes counting the stars you can see in the Orion constellation.
The tally can be reported on CPRE’s website at cpre.org.uk
Steps for the Star Count:
1. Locate the Orion constellation, which is in the south night sky. The main area of the constellation is bounded by four bright stars. The count should not include the four corner stars – only those within the rectangular boundary – but do include the stars in the middle known as Orion’s three-star belt.
2. It is recommended that observations are made after 7pm so the sky is sufficiently dark. Try to do the count on a night when the sky is clear, with no haze or clouds.
3. People should make a count of the number of stars seen with the naked eye (not with telescopes or binoculars).