Lockdown star count is a golden opportunity

Sussex’s star studded skies are the perfect escape from lockdown cabin fever and a golden opportunity for scientists this year, according to the countryside charity, CPRE Sussex.

The charity says that with less traffic in the air and on the roads, the stars could be the brightest they have been for a generation and is urging people to take part in a unique snapshot of the state of the county’s dark skies.

Last year the charity’s annual survey showed that more than half the population of Sussex suffered from severe light pollution around their homes. But have Sussex’s skies improved during Lockdown?

“Star-filled skies are a truly magical sight,” says CPRE Sussex Director, Kia Trainor, “but sadly, over the past decades, fewer and fewer people have been able to experience the joy of truly dark skies.”

“It will be very interesting to see if lockdown has brought about any reduction in light pollution, and if so, if this reduction is widespread or localised. However, for this study to be successful we need as many people as possible to take part in our Star Count.”

The star count (Feb 6 – 14) has been designed for anyone of any age to take part without leaving their own homes. Stargazers can download a simple guide which will show them how to count the number of stars they can see within the constellation of Orion.

Robin Durant who is Chairman of Adur Astronomical Society and a keen Astro Photographer says he has noticed changes in the skies during lockdown but not all for the better:

“I have noticed the quality of the sky during lock down mainly because there is little aircraft movement interrupting my imaging,” he says, “however being in Brighton the light pollution is just the same, or even worse.”

Anyone can take part in the Star Count from their home – either in the garden or through a south west facing window.

Founder of the East Sussex Astronomical Society, Andy Lawes has these tips for stargazers:

“Find a sheltered spot away from direct light,” he says, “and give your eyes time to adjust. This is known as dark adaptation. You can’t just go outside and look at the sky. Be patient. Stand out there for 10 to 20 minutes and you will progressively see more and more stars.”

“Once you’ve located your target, you’ll have a better view if you can keep any ground illumination from entering your peripheral vision. One way to do this is to wear a hooded sweatshirt that you can pull up over your head. Some observers simply drape a dark-coloured towel over their head.”

“Finally, if you need some illumination, avoid white light, which hampers your night vision. Instead use a torch with a red lens, or place some red cellophane over the end.”

CPRE Sussex’s Star Count guide can be found here: https://www.cpresussex.org.uk/news/seeing-stars/

For contact details and notes to editors – download the press release.

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Added 28 January 2021
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