Press Release

Thousands of Schoolchildren Around the World to Help Map Star Visibility in October

By SpaceRef Editor
September 16, 2007
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Thousands of Schoolchildren Around the World to Help Map Star Visibility in October
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Note to editors: To find out whether organizations in your area are helping to promote this event, please contact Dennis Ward.

BOULDER–Schoolchildren, families, and citizen scientists around the world will gaze skyward after dark from October 1 to 15, looking for specific constellations and then sharing their observations through the Internet. The initiative, called the Great World Wide Star Count, will help scientists map light pollution globally while educating participants about the stars.

The event, which is free and open to everyone who wants to participate, is organized by the Windows to the Universe project at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), in conjunction with planetariums and scientific societies across the country and abroad. Funding is provided by the National Science Foundation.

“This is an important event that brings families together to enjoy the night skies and become involved in science,” says Dennis Ward of UCAR’s Office of Education and Outreach, who is one of the event coordinators. “It also raises awareness about the impact of artificial lighting on our ability to see the stars.”

Participants in the Northern Hemisphere will look for the constellation Cygnus, while those in the Southern Hemisphere will look for Sagittarius. They will then match their observations with magnitude charts downloaded from the Great World Wide Star Count Web site (see below). The Web site also contains more information about the event, including instructions for finding the constellations, and it links to background about astronomy on the Windows to the Universe Web site.

Participants in overcast areas who cannot see stars will be able to input data about cloud conditions instead.

Thousands of observers in dozens of countries are expected to take part. Participants may make observations outside their homes or go to less developed areas where more stars are visible.

Bright outdoor lighting at night is a growing problem for astronomical observing programs around the world. By searching for the same constellations, participants in the Great World Wide Star Count will be able to compare their observations with what others see, giving them a sense of how star visibility varies from place to place. The observers will also learn more about the economic and geographic factors that control the light pollution in their communities and around the world.

“Without even being aware of it, many of us have lost the ability to see many stars at night,” Ward says. “The Great World Wide Star Count will help raise awareness of the importance and the beauty of the night skies.”

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research is a consortium of 70 universities offering Ph.D.s in the atmospheric and related sciences. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the UCAR Office of Programs (UOP).

-The End-

On the Web:

Great World Wide Star Count http://www.windows.ucar.edu/starcount

Windows to the Universe http://www.windows.ucar.edu

Resources for Journalists: http://www.ucar.edu/news/journalists.jsp

Contacts:

David Hosansky, UCAR Media Relations
1-303-497-8611
[email protected]

Dennis Ward, UCAR Education and Outreach
1-303-497-2599
[email protected]

SpaceRef staff editor.