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Sep 17, 2007

Kids, Others, Invited to Help Map Light Pollution

Schoolchildren as well as amateur astronomers are being asked to participate in the Great World Wide Star Count. The event, which is scheduled from October 1 to 15, is designed to help scientists map light pollution globally while educating participants about the stars. The initiative is part of the Windows to the Universe project at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

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 available online. "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.

Mr. Ward explained that there is a purpose beyond family togetherness, "It also raises awareness about the impact of artificial lighting on our ability to see the stars." 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 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research is a consortium of 70 universities offering Ph.D.s in the atmospheric and related sciences.

See also: Schoolchildren to Map Light Pollution.