Starry, starry night hidden by light pollution for majority, count finds

Three-fifths of people taking part in a national star count live in areas where light pollution is blocking the view of the starry night sky, campaigners have said.

Countryside charity CPRE asked people in February to count the number of stars they could see in the Orion constellation.

More than 2,400 people took part in the annual stargazing scheme and results show 61% could see 10 stars or fewer, which CPRE said means they were in an area with severe light pollution – up slightly from 57% last year.

CPRE and the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS) are urging councils to act on light pollution so more people can enjoy starry skies.

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.

“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.”

Just 3% of people could count more than 30 stars in the constellation of Orion, which meant they were in areas with really dark night skies.

Families who were able to see plenty of stars reported how much they loved the experience and almost all star-counters said they believed every child should be able to enjoy a star-filled night sky, CPRE said.

A survey of more than 1,400 star counters also revealed more than four-fifths (82%) thought councils should do more to tackle light pollution.

Bob Mizon from the 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.”

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