61% live under ‘severe light pollution’, says UK survey

Star Count 2020, a citizen science survey organised by countryside charity CPRE, suggests light pollution is a major issue for Britons.

The glare of light pollution can be a menace for amateur astronomers. Credit: Steve Marsh

61% of people in the UK live in areas with severe light pollution, limiting their view of the stars and other objects in the night sky. This is the key finding from a new report released by CPRE, the countryside charity, which launched its Star Count 2020 initiative earlier this year.

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Star Count 2020 asked members of the UK public to step outside and count the number of stars they could see in the night sky and submit their results, in order to gauge how light pollution affects Britons’ views of the night sky.

The citizen science project was undertaken by over 2,400 people across the UK, and 61% of people taking part counted 10 stars visible in the night sky or fewer.

In last year’s Star Count, the number of people spotting 10 stars or fewer was 57%.

Plain illuminated partially covered by fog, soft lights. Credit: elleon / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Light pollution can be a problem if you are passionate about viewing the night sky. Credit: elleon / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Light pollution is the name given to the glare caused by artificial light from towns and cities, which makes it difficult to see stars and other phenomena in the night sky. However, it is possible to install lighting that can minimise light pollution.

Many campaigners also argue that constant artificial light in towns and cities affects the day/night cycle of local wildlife.

Just 3% of respondents said they could count over 30 stars in the night sky. 82% said their local council should ‘do more to tackle light pollution’ and 98.8% said ‘every child should be able to experience the wonder of a star-filled night sky’.

There was a small bout of good news for dark-sky campaigners in this year’s survey, however. 3% of respondents counted over 30 stars within the Orion constellation, indicating that they live in areas with very dark skies. This was up 2% on last year’s survey.

CPRE chief executive Crispin Truman says: “We’d like to see councils adopting better policies in local plans to tackle light pollution and protect and enhance our darkest skies, where people can still experience the wonder of a star filled night sky.

“There are straightforward steps councils can take, in consultation with local people, that don’t just reduce light pollution but save energy and money too.”

If you are concerned about your own community’s view of the night sky, read our guide to fighting light pollution.

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And for more info on the Star Count campaign, visit the CPRE Dark Skies website.