Star Count Goes Global

Oct 15, 2008
Star-watchers in the Northern Hemisphere will track the constellation Cygnus. Credit: NCAR/UCAR

Schoolchildren, families and citizen scientists around the world will gaze skyward after dark from Oct. 20 to Nov.3, 2008, looking for specific constellations and then sharing their observations through the Internet.

The Great World Wide Star Count, now in its second year, helps scientists map light pollution globally while educating participants about the stars.

The event, which is open to everyone who wants to participate, is organized by the Windows to the Universe project at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colo., in conjunction with planetariums and scientific societies across the country and abroad.

"By searching for the same constellations in their respective hemispheres, participants in the Great World Wide Star Count will be able to compare their observations with what others see, giving them a sense of how star visibility varies from place to place," said Cliff Jacobs, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences.

The observers will also learn more about the economic and geographic factors that control light pollution in their communities and around the world.

"The star count brings families together to enjoy the night sky and become involved in science," says Dennis Ward of UCAR's Office of Education and Outreach. "It also raises awareness about the impact of artificial lighting on our ability to see the stars."

The 2007 star count drew 6,624 observations taken in all seven continents, and organizers expect the number of participants to double this year.

UCAR used last year's observations to generate maps of star visibility around the world.

Next year, the star count will be part of a "cornerstone project" of the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, a global effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote interest in astronomy.

Participants in the Northern Hemisphere will look for the constellation Cygnus, while those in the Southern Hemisphere will look for the constellation Sagittarius.

They will then match their observations with charts downloaded from the Great World Wide Star Count Web site. The site also contains instructions for finding the constellations, and other event details.

Participants may make observations outside their homes or go to less-developed areas where more stars are visible.

Those in overcast areas who cannot see stars will be able to input data about cloud conditions instead. Bright outdoor lighting at night is a growing problem for astronomical observing programs around the world.

"Last year's results showed a strong correlation between dense development, where there is a lot of light, and a lack of star visibility," Ward says. "Without even being aware of it, many of us have lost the ability to see many stars at night. Part of our goal is getting people to look up and regain an appreciation of the night sky."

Funding is provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Great Worldwide Star Count: www.windows.ucar.edu/starcount

Source: National Science Foundation

Explore further: NASA engineer advances new daytime star tracker

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Guide to the 2014 Leonid meteors

Nov 12, 2014

If there's one meteor shower that has the potential to bring on a storm of epic proportions, it's the Leonids. Peaking once every 33 years, these fast movers hail from the Comet 55P Temple-Tuttle, and radiate ...

Caltech rocket experiment finds surprising cosmic light

Nov 06, 2014

Using an experiment carried into space on a NASA suborbital rocket, astronomers at Caltech and their colleagues have detected a diffuse cosmic glow that appears to represent more light than that produced ...

Recommended for you

NASA engineer advances new daytime star tracker

1 hour ago

Scientists who use high-altitude scientific balloons have high hopes for their instruments in the future. Although the floating behemoths that carry their instruments far into the stratosphere can stay aloft ...

Image: Sounding rockets launch into an aurora

1 hour ago

The interaction of solar winds and Earth's atmosphere produces northern lights, or auroras, that dance across the night sky and mesmerize the casual observer. However, to scientists this interaction is more ...

Gully patterns document Martian climate cycles

2 hours ago

Geologists from Brown University have found new evidence that glacier-like ice deposits advanced and retreated multiple times in the midlatitude regions of Mars in the relatively recent past.

Europe to resume satnav launches in March: Arianespace

2 hours ago

Europe in March will resume satellite launches for its troubled Galileo navigation system, hoping to boost by at least six the number of orbiters this year, Arianespace and the European Commission said Wednesday.

The two faces of Mars

5 hours ago

A moon-sized celestial object that crashed into the south pole: ETH researchers use a simulation to demonstrate why Mars consists of two notably different hemispheres.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.