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The 2008 Great World Wide Star Count

Submitter: Marijke Haverkorn
Description: In the aftermath of the whirlwind that Hanny caused, another great amateur astronomer project just announced its results.

The Great World Wide Star Count took place for the second time last October. This 'citizen science' project was designed to encourage students, amateur astronomers and other afficionados to record observations of the quality of their nighttime sky and share that data via the Star Count website. All around the world enthusiasts counted the number of stars in a certain constellation and uploaded their data to the website, from which a global light pollution map was created. The goals of the project are raising public awareness of sky quality issues, collecting global sky quality data, and encouraging citizen science through a hands-on activity.

The starcount website ( http://www.windows.ucar.edu/citizen_science/starcount/ ) contains instructions on how to find the relevant constellation for your location. Magnitude charts are provided to be able to rate the brightness of your nighttime sky. There is even a button 'cloudy sky' for disappointed ad hoc astronomers in bad weather countries.

In total, more than 31,000 citizen scientists from 60 countries participated in the project, and the results of their combined observations are shown above. The maps of Europe and the world display the observations reported in both years. It confirms nicely what we already knew: that the Drenthe skies are darker than those in the Randstad. The bottom right map displays 2007 observations in Boulder county, Colorado, overlaid on NASA's "Earth City Lights" map in Google Earth. Here the correlation with artificial light is obvious.

If you want to participate you'll need some patience: the third annual Star Count will take place on October 9 - 23, 2009 as part of the Dark Skies Awareness Cornerstone Project for the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

Copyright: Great World Wide Star Count
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