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Count the stars to help map light pollution in Lancaster

John Freeman
Organisers of Star Count are asking people to count stars within
the constellation of Orion in the south-western
night sky. More:

Campaigners and scientists are looking to recruit Lancaster's amateur stargazers to help them map light pollution during national Star Count Week starting today, Friday 20th January.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England and the British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies  are asking people to take part in the 2012 Star Count Week between Friday 20th and Friday 27th January, when the skies should be at their darkest at the time of the new moon.

Stargazers will be asked to count the number of stars they can see within the constellation of Orion. The results will help create a 2012 Star Count map, illustrating how light pollution is affecting the view of the night sky across the UK.

Participants can choose any night between Friday 20th and Friday 27th January but the sky must be clear, with no haze or clouds, so there is the best chance of seeing stars. It is recommended that observations are made after 7.00pm so the sky is sufficiently dark.

Organisers are asking people to count stars within the constellation of Orion in the south-western night sky. The main area of the constellation is bounded by four bright stars. The star count should not include these four corner stars - only those within this rectangular boundary - but do include the stars in the middle known as Orion's three-star belt.

People should make a count of the number of stars seen with the naked eye (not with telescopes or binoculars) and then simply complete the online survey form: or send their count, the time and date it was made, and the location to our address: Star Count, Campaign for Dark Skies, 38 The Vineries, Colehill, Wimborne, BH21 2PX.

Founded in 1926, the Campaign to Protect Rural England fights for a better future for the English countryside. It works locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy, its members united in their love for England's landscapes and rural communities.

The British Astronomical Association is Britain's largest astronomical organisation, with thousands of members nation-wide. Its Campaign for Dark Skies was founded in 1989, and aims to ensure quality lighting in the UK. A well-lit environment below and a view of the starry sky above are not incompatible.

• Further details of the Star Count Week and instructions on how to take part can be found at: