Big star count across Sussex will check quality of our skies at night

Time to get stargazing �National Trust Images/Steve Sayers
Time to get stargazing �National Trust Images/Steve Sayers

Stargazers across Sussex are being sought to take part in a monster star count.

Star Count 2019 will be running for the first three weeks in February and is open to anyone who would like to act as a ‘citizen scientist’ to help create a cosmic census of the quality of the dark skies across East and West Sussex.

In 2016 the countryside charity, CPRE, published satellite maps which showed that Wealden in Sussex has some of the best dark skies in the country. However the same maps revealed that Crawley has some of the worst light pollution outside London.

This month’s star count has been designed for anyone of any age to take part – whether they live in the countryside or in a town or city. Stargazers can download a simple guide which will show them how to count the number of stars they can see (with the naked eye) within the constellation of Orion.

The Star Count in Sussex is supported by the British Astronomical Association and by the South Downs National Park which is an International Dark Sky Reserve.

“The stars over Sussex are magical at this time of the year,” says CPRE chairman, David Johnson, “and we are hoping that our Star Count will inspire everyone to get outside to enjoy them”.

“We are very lucky to have protected landscapes and deep rural countryside where the skies are still dark, but in some parts of Sussex darks skies are becoming increasingly hard to find as our towns and cities grow.”

“For as long as we can remember, humans have looked up at the stars,” adds CPRE Sussex director, Kia Trainor, “we have used them to help us understand and navigate the world around us and our place in the universe. Mapping the skies in this way will help us to fight back against light pollution in Sussex and to keep our stars bright.”

CPRE star count 2019 gets underway tomorrow (Saturday, February 2) and will run until Feb 23. The results will create a map showing where to go to get the very best view of the stars.

“We value our star-studded skies just as much as the rolling landscape for which the South Downs National Park was designated,” says Dan Oakley, Dark Skies Lead for the SDNP. “Taking part in a star count is a great way to learn more about the night sky and its secrets”.

How to take part:

*Try to do your count on a night when the sky is clear, with no haze or clouds, then wait until after 7pm so the sky is really dark.

*Looking south into the night sky, find the Orion constellation, with its four corners and ‘three-star belt’. Take a few moments to let your eyes adjust, then simply count the number of stars you can see within the rectangle made by the four corner stars. You should not count the corners, but you can count the three stars in the middle (the belt).

* Count and make a note of the number of stars seen with the naked eye (not with telescopes or binoculars) and then simply complete the online survey form: www.cpre.org.uk/starcount.

Share your experiences with others on social media using #starcount2019 @CPRE @BritAstro

CPRE Sussex is also supporting The South Downs Dark Skies Festival and star gazing festival which gets underway on February 15.

The Festival road show will be visiting Midhurst Rother College in Midhurst on Saturday, February 16 from 4pm–8pm and The Town Hall, Lewes on Wednesday, February 20 from 4pm–8pm.