Stargazing in the UK is the best it’s been in over a decade

According to the results of a new citizen science, now is the best time to stargaze in the UK since 2011, questionnaire led by the national charity CPRE. Light pollution in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since CPRE began its annual survey more than a decade ago.

Light pollution peaked in 2020 (before the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing) and then declined last year as workplaces closed during the pandemic. Since then, CPRE says light pollution has continued to fall as more people continue to work from home and rising energy prices in Europe are driving households to lower their lighting costs.

Every year, CPRE enlists the help of citizen scientists for a ‘Star Count’. This year, more than 2,500 participants counted the number of stars they saw in the night sky in their area between February 26 and March 6. They were asked to search for stars in the constellation Orion, identified by the three bright stars that make up Orion’s belt. “Severe” light pollution, as CPRE defines it, occurs when 10 or fewer stars can be seen with the naked eye.

In 2020, 61 percent of participants reported severe light pollution. In 2021, reports of severe light pollution fell by 10 percent. That figure has continued to fall this year, with 49 percent of participants experiencing severe light pollution.

Bright artificial light can be great problems for animals† It can ruin the mood for frogs and fireflies that mate at night. It could disrupt coyotes’ communication; they cry more when the sky is darker. And some birds depend on the moon and stars to find their way in flight.

Research has also shown that bright nighttime lighting can have negative effects influence people, which suppresses melatonin and disrupts our sleep rhythm. On the other hand, stargazing can just be fun and relaxing.

For many of those reasons, CPRE has advocated changes to reduce light pollution. Offices can turn off their lights at night, CPRE says, and city councils can be more strategic about lighting streets only where needed. As a bonus, those measures can also lower energy bills and reduce other types of pollution.

“The good news is that these results [of the Star Count] show that small changes can make a big difference,” said Emma Marrington, campaigner for CPRE dark skies, in the Announcement

CPRE also has a handy Map on its website showing which places in the UK have the most light pollution and where stargazers can get the best views of the night sky.


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