People are being urged to take part in a nationwide star count to see if lockdown has had an impact on light pollution.
By counting stars within the constellation of Orion, “citizen scientists” will help map the best and worst places in England to enjoy a star-filled night sky, organisers said.
The information will be used in efforts to secure darker skies, which improve health and wellbeing, protect wildlife, and allow people to enjoy a clear view of the stars, said CPRE, the countryside charity, and the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies.
Data from this year’s annual survey will be compared with 2020’s findings to see what, if any, impact lockdown has had.
Last year’s star count, which took place before coronavirus restrictions, revealed that 61% of people taking part lived with severe light pollution.
To take part, people just need to look up from their garden, balcony, doorstep or even bedroom during a clear night between 6 and 14 February, and count how many stars within the constellation of Orion they can spot.
CPRE’s chief executive, Crispin Truman, said: “A starry night sky is one of the most magical sights the countryside can offer, connecting us to the nature we all love and the wonders of the wider universe.
“Dark skies are also crucial for our health and for that of wildlife. Lockdown and the coronavirus have reminded us about how good for us the countryside can be.”
He said many places suffered from light pollution “bleaching out the night sky”, but that he campaign group aimed to change that.
“By taking part in star count, people will be helping us to lobby the government for more protection of this too often overlooked, but vital, part of our countryside,” he said.
Bob Mizon, the UK coordinatorof the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies, added: “Turning back the tide of light pollution brings darker night skies and improvements to the wellbeing of humans, wildlife and the environment.
“The CPRE star count is an important part of this work, especially in these abnormal times when we have a chance to see whether changes in our activities are having any positive effect on the atmosphere and our view of the night sky.”