How often do you go outside and look up? I mean really, just look up at the sky and stars?
With more and more people living in cities, and light pollution still a major problem, it seems that a smaller percentage of people actually get to see the stars. That’s why the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) started the GLOBE at night program, an effort to get folks outside and get them to appreciate the night sky.
The program is actually pretty simple: all you have to do is go outside and look at Orion, and compare the stars in the constellation you can see with maps showing progressively fainter stars. This tells you your "magnitude limit" which in turn s tells you how bad light pollution is in your area. You can then submit your findings on the GLOBE at Night website, where they are compiled and mapped.
It doesn’t matter if you live in the middle of the Sahara or in downtown NYC. In fact, the more people who submit their results the better, so that the GaN folks can get really good coverage of the planet. Not only does this help you get a feel for the sky and for light pollution, but it helps astronomers keep track of wasted light as well.
Light pollution destroys our view of the sky, but it also represents a lot of energy totally wasted. Cities, towns, everyone can save a lot of money by installing more efficient lighting — you can find out more at the Dark Sky Rangers site. Projects like GLOBE at Night will help a lot of people realize that, too.
The project goes from now until March 16, and the website has everything you need to get started, including resources for teachers, parents, and students. Give it a shot!