In the biggest citizen science project of its kind, people are being asked to count the number of stars they see in the Orion constellation to help map the best and worst places in the UK to enjoy a star-filled night sky.
The results will be compared with 2021’s findings, gathered during lockdown, which revealed a notable drop in the number of people experiencing severe light pollution given urban areas were much quieter and fewer large buildings were in use.
‘The night sky is one half of our experience of nature; but we don’t often think of it like that. In and of itself, it helps balance our mental health and boost our emotional wellbeing. Recollect that experience of a starry sky and you instinctively know it soothed you.
‘But our view of the night sky – and all the benefits it undoubtedly brings – is being blotted out by light pollution. Like all forms of pollution, it is damaging our mental and physical health, and also having a severe impact on wildlife. Yet, it is a form of pollution that is allowed to increase year on year without any effort being made to control the damage it is causing.’
Deputy chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity
Stars and mental health
A clear view of a star-filled night sky has a hugely beneficial effect on our mental health and, like access to other forms of nature, helps reduce stress and increase a sense of peace and wellbeing.
Research has even shown that regularly spending time looking at the stars can lower blood pressure and reduce depression.
Yet the night sky, which is a hugely significant part of our natural environment, has no legal protection.
Finding the clearest skies
In 2021, over 7,000 people took part in CPRE’s Star Count. The proportion of people reporting ‘severe light pollution’, defined as 10 stars or fewer being visible to the naked eye in the Orion constellation, had declined from 61% to 51%.
The proportion of ‘truly dark skies’, defined as over 30 stars being visible within the Orion constellation, had increased from 3% to 5%.
This was likely due to the count taking place during lockdown, with reduced levels of artificial light leading to a clearer view of the night sky.