Look to Orion and Help Measure the Darkness of Your Night Sky


How dark are your skies? GLOBE at Night wants to know! Join the 6th annual worldwide GLOBE at Night campaign, which is going on right now in the northern hemisphere. “We are running two campaigns this year, from February 22nd to March 6th and from March 22nd to April 4th in the northern hemisphere and March 24th to April 6th in the southern hemisphere,” said Rob Sparks from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which is one of the sponsors for this year’s campaign.

By participating in the international star-hunting campaign, you will help address the problems of light pollution locally as well as globally. More participants are needed this year, so sign up to be a citizen scientist today!

Light pollution is a serious and growing global concern. With half of the world’s population now living in cities, many urban dwellers have never experienced the wonder of pristinely dark skies and perhaps, maybe never will. But light pollution is also a concern in areas of safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars.

But this is also one of the easiest environmental problems you can address on local levels.

GLOBE at Night is a wonderful way for everyone around the world to participate to raise public awareness of the impact of artificial lighting on local environments. This event encourages everyone – students, educators, dark sky advocates and the general public – to measure the darkness of their local skies and contribute their observations online to a world map.

The campaign is easy and fun to do, and as in previous years, there are just five easy steps to participate. But this year, there is now an app for that, where participants can submit their measurements in real time if they have a smart phone or tablet.

“There is now a mobile website to submit data,” Sparks told Universe Today. “It will take the GPS data, time and date from your phone and has a cool little graphic to help you determine the brightness of the sky. It even had a red screen feature for night use.” The app can be found at this link.

To participate, you will match the appearance of the constellation Orion in the first campaign (and Leo or Crux in the second campaign) with simple star maps of progressively fainter stars found. Then you submit your measurements, including the date, time, and location of your comparison. After all the campaign’s observations are submitted, the project’s organizers release a map of light-pollution levels worldwide. Over the last five annual 2-week campaigns, volunteers from more than 100 nations contributed 52,000 measurements, one third of which came from last year’s campaign.

The five easy star-hunting steps are:

1) Find your latitude and longitude.

2) Find Orion by going outside an hour after sunset (about 7-10pm local time).

3) Match your nighttime sky to one of the GLOBE at Night magnitude charts

4) Report your observation.

5) Compare your observation to thousands around the world.

Go to the GLOBE at Night website for all the details. There is even a 10-minute audio podcast on light pollution and GLOBE at Night. Or download a 45-minute powerpoint and accompanying audio. GLOBE at Night is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Be a part of GLOBE at Night and help the campaign exceed the 17,800 observations contributed last year. Your measurements will make a world of difference.

Thanks to the GLOBE at Night team for securing permission for Universe Today to post the lead image, from Wally Pacholka from AstroPics.com and TWAN (The World At Night).

13 Replies to “Look to Orion and Help Measure the Darkness of Your Night Sky”

  1. Fun for the individual or astronomy club!

    I started as an amateur astronomer while living in the Los Angeles area back in the 70’s. My borrowed 90mm dime store refractor could see Jupiter, Venus, Saturn or occasionally Mars but not much else. The lights from the city blocked all but the very brightest objects. Seeing the stars during occasional camping trips out of the LA basin always blew my mind. There were so MANY! I moved to Northern California in 1984 and found dark skies for the first time in my life. Sonoma County has since grown X10 bigger and now has serious lighting issues. Fortunately, I live far enough away from the nearest cities but regularly commute10 miles further up the coast to even darker mountain star gazing locations. So… I get dark skies, but in return have to drive an hour to get just about anywhere! Gas will be $4/gal. this summer here in Californicator…. ACK!

    1. Nothing will stop me! I’ll be out there howling along with the Coyotes and hoping the Cougar’s been well fed as I watch my stars! I’ll chat up anyone who stops by and wants to take a look! Maybe even offer em a beer? There might be a supernova tonight? or a new comet? Meteor showers and storms are always welcome! Come on down!

    2. $4/gallon!!! Luxury.In Britain it’s the equivalent of $14/gallon [if my mental calculation is correct]

  2. Charming.
    That’ll rightful earn you a red card… (and they truly think I’m not nice!)

  3. I was going to submit my local data as soon as possible for this interesting project until I saw the following:
    “2) Find Orion by going outside an hour after sunset
    (about 7-10pm local time).”
    That’s *really* sloppy. The sun sets at different speed in different places! One hour after sunset represents vastly different natural light levels depending on where the observer is. This difference is significant any time of the year. If they mean “after dark” then they need to say that – anyone following the instructions correctly will get garbage data!

    In light of this the whole thing about wanting to collect a larger quantity of data than last time is somewhat depressing – if they succeed it’ll just mean they have a larger collection of garbage that’s skewed this way or that if the instructions are that bad. I guess I should try to contact them and see if they react in any way…

    1. i don’t think you’re giving the general public enough credit–most people are fully capable of knowing the difference between ‘evening’ and ‘night’. im excited to see the results. although i bet that they will read something like ‘1 star out of 10’ or ‘EPIC FAIL’ for my area in the western Toronto suburbs.

      1. i don’t think you’re giving the general public enough credit–most people are fully capable of knowing the difference between ‘evening’ and ‘night’.
        But that’s the thing…even if they can tell the difference the instructions will lead them wrong!

        See, when the instructions are saying something else than intended the options in northern locations (think the northern parts of the Nordic countries) become:
        1. Disobey the instructions and observe during dark.
        2. Obey the instructions and observe before dark.
        It’s a choice between doing it wrong and doing it wrong. One of the wrongs produces the right data.

        Notice that I’m specifically giving the public credit – I’m trusting that they’ll do as the instructions say. And if they do they’ll measure light pollution when the predominant light source is still daylight. When the instructions are bad, those who are incapable of following instructions will tend to get the best results!

      2. Apologies for the unclear quoting of your post in my parallel reply, I wish there was a preview function.

      3. If you want to be precise about the ‘dark’ condition, then I think after astronomical twilight (look at the sunset link in step 2 of the article) should be a good time. This condition should be present even at the north pole before the March equinox & after the equinox for the south pole. I’m not an astronomer, so this is just from general reading. Please correct if this is inaccurate. Thanks.

    2. perhaps “vastly different natural light levels” depending on location when we’re close to a solstice, but not so much when the sun is near the equator, as it is now.

      1. I doubt anyone but me is reading this thread any longer, but…

        I did check all this in Stellarium before saying anything, FWIW. The difference between the vertically setting sun at the equator and the slowly setting sun above habitated areas in the far north *is* significant even right now.

        One hour after sunset:
        Svalbard: Sun less than three degrees below horizon
        Ecuador: Sun more than fourteen degrees below horizon.
        If Stellarium is to be trusted the difference is huge even at this time of the year. Beacuse of this, the instructions do not work globally.

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