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When you look up at the night sky in a place that’s fairly dark, stars are everywhere. You might think there are too many stars to count, but actually, you could count them. Early astronomers counted the number of stars in the sky to get a better idea of the Universe around them, and so can you. Let’s find out how many stars you can see.
If you live in a bright city like London or Los Angeles, the air pollution in the sky and the bright city lights fade out the night sky. Only the brightest stars have a chance to make it through the glare. You might be lucky to be able to count dozens of stars on poor seeing conditions. But if you head away from population centers, under the darker rural skies, hundreds of more stars come into view.
Astronomers measure the brightness of an object using a term called magnitude. So, a magnitude 2 object is brighter than a magnitude 3 object. The limit of human vision without a telescope is magnitude 6.
On a clear, moonless night in a place far away from city lights, you should be able to see about 2000 stars. The darker the skies, the more stars you can see. Astronomers have calculated that there are about 6,000 stars potentially visible with the unaided eye, of course, there’s no way you could see them all at the same time. Some stars are visible from the southern hemisphere, while others are visible from the northern hemisphere. Some stars are visible in the summer months, while others are visible in the winter months.
So if you’re heading outside and want to count stars, you’ll be lucky to count 2,000. Get counting!
We have written many articles about stars on Universe Today. When it’s time to get your first telescope, read this story.