It’s Time to Count the Stars

By October 15th, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Comment

Each purple mark is where someone has taken a look at the stars overhead and reported the data to Star Count.

Each purple mark is where someone has taken a look at the stars overhead and reported the data to Star Count.

Wow! Take a look at the map on the Great World Wide Star Count website. The fall campaign started yesterday and already there are oodles of citizen scientists from around the world posting their data. Citizen scientists from China, Australia, India, Kuwait, Egypt, South Africa, the European Union, Canada, United States, and Mexico have gotten involved so far. They are all looking at how bright the stars are overhead to help us get a better understanding of how streetlights, porch lights, car headlights and other nighttime lights affect how we see the stars in the sky.

Because different stars are visible in different parts of the planet, people north of the equator, in the Northern Hemisphere, are looking for different stars than people south of the equator in the Southern Hemisphere. Citizen scientists that are participating in the Great World Wide Star Count in the Northern Hemisphere are looking at the brightness of stars in the constellation Cygnus. Citizen scientists in the Southern Hemisphere are looking at the brightness of stars in the constellation Sagittarius.

To join the worldwide star gazing effort, print the magnitude chart from Star Count. Then, an hour after sunset sometimes between October 14 and 28, 2011, go outside and find the constellation Cygnus or Sagittarius in the sky. (If you’d like to plan ahead yet are not sure what time the sun sets, you can figure it out with a sunset calculator.)

How bright are those stars? Can you see them clearly or are they hard to see? Compare the way the constellation looks in the sky with the magnitude charts. Record the magnitude of the stars according to the directions in the activity guide and you are ready to report your findings at the Star Count website.

After reporting the magnitude of the stars you saw, take a look at the results pouring into the Star Count map. In the five years that the project has been going on, tens of thousands of people have participated from about 90 countries around the world. You might notice on the map that the same stars appear brighter in some areas of than they do in others. The stars are the same, but they are being seen from places that have different amounts of light pollution – lights from buildings, roads and parking lots that make it difficult to see the stars of the night sky.

Great World Wide Star Count

Days: October 14-28, 2011

Time: An hour after sunset

Enjoy to stars!

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