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No more stars in your eyes for Yorkshire folk

[Wednesday 14 March 2007]
orion no light pollution

Orion with no light pollution
Photo: Campaign for Dark Skies /
Bob Mizon

orion light pollution

Orion with light pollution
Photo: Campaign for Dark Skies /
Dr Darren Baskill

GAZING upon a star filled sky above the Yorkshire Dales landscape is truly a sight to behold, yet fewer and fewer people are able to see this natural wonder.

That is the stark conclusion of a survey run by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies.

CPRE and CfDS asked people to count the number of stars they could see within the constellation of Orion - one of the most easily identified in the night sky - then post the number, along with the location of their observation. In a truly dark sky about 50 stars should be visible to the naked eye within the constellation.

The results confirmed that light pollution, caused by badly-designed, inefficient outdoor lighting, is blotting out the stars across much of the country and for most of the population - including for those of us lucky enough to live in rural areas.

The CPRE believe that people have been robbed of one of nature's most everyday yet awesome views - a star-filled night sky.

Nearly 2,000 people took part in the star count. Only 2% of those who responded to the online survey said they could see more than 30 stars, compared to 54% who saw fewer than 10 stars in Orion - a level which indicates severe light pollution.

Not surprisingly, the fewest stars tended to be seen in the more built up, developed areas where there is most outdoor lighting - in our region this was most apparent in densely populated areas such as West Yorkshire.

Many people in rural areas though were surprised at how few stars they actually saw, given that someone with good eyesight somewhere free of light pollution should see about 50 stars within Orion on a moonless, clear night.

Light pollution can spread deep into the countryside from towns and cities. The two main causes of this pollution were poorly directed security floodlighting and sky glow from distant towns, mostly caused by street lighting.

CPRE and the Campaign for Dark Skies are hoping to repeat the star count in future years. They aim to build an accurate picture of the light pollution people experience across the country and monitor change, supplementing the mapping work both organisations have carried out.

Emma Marrington, CPRE dark skies campaigner said: "We're very grateful to the people who took part in our star count. This evidence is a great way to show Government how badly we need the long awaited planning policy on controlling light pollution, which would help stop it spreading ever wider."

Bob Mizon, UK co-ordinator of the Campaign for Dark Skies, said: "In an era when energy considerations loom ever larger, it makes a lot of sense to direct lights carefully and use sensible wattages, not just to reclaim our view of the stars but also to cut pollution and help ensure our energy stocks for the future."

Your views:

  • Horton in Ribblesdale has a very old and beautiful church dedicated to St. Oswald. Unfortunately, during the hours of darkness, it is illuminated with powerful, upward shining lights, blinding any observers view of an otherwise, relatively unpolluted celestial panorama.

    A fitting tribute to human vanity - lighting up what mankind has built for God and obscuring what God has built for mankind.

    John McKay - Horton in Ribblesdale

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