Star Count shows almost 80% of local participants live in areas with severe light pollution
In February CPRE, the countryside charity, asked the nation to count the number of stars visible in the Orion constellation. More than 2,400 people took part and the results show that for most of us, light pollution is blocking our view of the night sky. In Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, 78.4% of people taking part counted ten stars or fewer, meaning they were in an area with severe light pollution. The number counting ten stars or fewer nationally was 61%, an increase from 57% last year.
CPRE believes that a star filled night sky is one of the most magical sights of the countryside. And throughout the coronavirus outbreak lockdown, gazing up at the stars will have brought comfort to many during an extremely difficult time. Yet light pollution can spread from towns and cities into the countryside, denying many people the chance to experience the wonder and tranquillity of seeing a sky full of stars.
The results of this citizen science survey, carried out annually, suggest that across the UK, 61% of people are in areas with severe light pollution, counting fewer than ten stars. This is a rise of 4% from last year, when 57% of people taking part were in these areas.
CPRE Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester organised a stargazing event with astronomer Robert Ince in January 2020, and participants were amazed at the truly dark skies in the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is now recognised as a Dark Skies Discovery Site. The contrast between this area and the rest of the county is striking.
CPRE chief executive Crispin Truman said: ‘Gazing up at the heavens can inspire and help lift our spirits, especially when many of us are forced to do so from within our homes at the moment. It is a shame that few of us can see the starry skies in all their glory, without the intrusion of light pollution.’
There was some good news at the other end of the scale, with 3% of people counting more than 30 stars within Orion, meaning that they were in areas with truly dark skies. That’s a rise from 2% in 2019, although in Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester only 2% of respondents saw truly dark skies.
Families who took part and were able to see plenty of stars on the night of their count reported how much they loved the experience. In addition, 99% of star-counters asked said they believed that every child should be able to experience the wonder of a star-filled night sky.
Bob Mizon from the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS) said ‘It’s wonderful to hear about families having fun doing the Star Count. Children should be able to see the Milky Way, their own galaxy, by looking up at the sky, not looking online!’
CPRE and CfDS believe that councils have the power to give people better views of the night sky. And when asked, 82% of star-counters responding to a survey said their local council should do more to tackle light pollution.
Crispin added: ‘We’d like to see councils adopting better policies in local plans to tackle light pollution and protect and enhance our darkest skies, where people can still experience the wonder of a star filled night sky. There are straightforward steps councils can take, in consultation with local people, that don’t just reduce light pollution but save energy and money too.’
The map showing the results of CPRE’s Star Count 2020 is online here: cpre.org.uk/starcountresults