Join the 2014 Star Count in Herefordshire. Submit your results online (see below) and have a chance to win a fantastic Celestron Astromaster telescope!
It’s easy to do, great fun, and you need no existing knowledge of the night sky or specialist equipment – just the ability to count, and five minutes of spare time.
How to take part in the Star Count
The only requirement for star gazing is that the sky must be clear, with no haze or clouds, so there is the best chance of seeing stars. The sky is sufficiently dark after 7pm, if children want to join in.
The easiest way to find Orion is to look in the southwest sky.You are looking for three bright stars close together in an almost-straight line...
These three stars represent Orion's belt. The two bright stars to the north are his shoulders and the two to the south are his feet, you don’t need to count the corner points, just the stars you can see within them.
Submit your results online & have a chance to win the Astromaster telescope. Please only submit one star count unless you are submitting counts from different locations.
If you don't win the telescope, generously donated by David Hinds Ltd, there are also four copies available of The End of Night by Paul Bogard, which describes Paul’s journey searching for natural darkness in an age of artificial light.
The Star Count is run in association with the British Astronomical Association and for 2014 is partnered with National Astronomy Week. You can check the National Astronomy Week events listing for details of local stargazing gatherings near you.
Why Count the stars?
In December 2006 CPRE and BAA warned that most of today's children will never see the magnificent sight of the Milky Way – our own galaxy – spread across the sky unless we halt the growth in badly directed, inefficient outdoor lighting.
Help us do more about light pollution in Herefordshire
Dark Sky Reserves
In February 2013 the Brecon Beacons National Park, located on the south-west borders of Herefordshire, became the 5th destination in the world to be granted prestigious International Dark Sky Reserve.
The accreditation is awarded by the International Dark-Sky Association, based in the USA. International Dark Sky Reserves are areas recognised as possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment specifically protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage or public enjoyment.
Star Count results
The first Star Count was undertaken 2006/7 and the results of that and later Counts are used to map the spread of light pollution across the UK.
Not surprisingly, the fewest stars tend to be seen in the more built up, developed areas, where there is more outdoor lighting. However, many people in rural areas are surprised at how few stars they see, given that someone with good eyesight and in an area free of light pollution, should see about 50 stars within Orion on a clear, moonless night.
The two main causes of this pollution are poorly directed security floodlighting and sky glow from distant towns, mostly caused by street lighting. This is further evidence how light pollution can spread deep into the countryside from towns and cities.
The Star Count results suggest a tale of two night skies across the country. Three quarters of those taking part counted fewer than 15 stars in the Orion constellation but only 14 per cent saw 21 or more. 54 per cent saw ten stars or fewer within the constellation of Orion - indicating severe light pollution in their area.
Sir Andrew Motion said: ‘It is heartening that the number of respondents enjoying truly dark skies, able to see more than 31 of Orion’s stars, rose to five per cent.’ This suggests that various dark sky initiatives may be helping people in some places to reclaim a starry night sky.
Almost one thousand location reports revealed that only one in ten (9 per cent) of participants could see between 21 and 30 stars and just two per cent of people had truly dark skies, seeing 31 or more stars.
Although the proportion of people taking part who live with severe light pollution was down to 53 per cent in 2012, these results suggest that despite good initiatives to reduce light pollution in some places, the contamination of Britain's night skies continues largely unchecked.
Almost 2,200 people across the country took part in the January 2011 Star Count, despite half the week being cloudy. The results show that three in five (59 per cent) of participants could see just 10 or fewer stars within Orion - indicating severe light pollution in their area.
Only eight per cent of star gazers could see more than 20 stars and just one per cent had truly dark skies, seeing 30 or more stars.
Nearly 2,000 people took part in the first Star Count week, held jointly by CPRE and the Campaign for Dark Skies. Only 2 per cent said they could see more than 30 stars in Orion, compared with 54 per cent who saw fewer than 10 stars.