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  • Writer's pictureJacob Dutkiewicz

Counting on you to Count the Stars

Updated: Feb 2

Groningen researchers urge us to rediscover the stars lost in the sea of light pollution which is our sky.


For the first two weeks of February, all citizens of Groningen and the surrounding areas are invited to take part in the yearly star counting event sponsored by the organization Darkness of the Wadden Sea.


In a collaboration with the University of Groningen, the initiative aims to bring attention to the negative effects of light pollution and the preservation of darkness as a “primordial quality of life.


“People often don’t realize that they live in a light polluted area,” says Theo Jurriens, an astronomer and one of the initiative’s leads. “We already know it’s bad for our environment”.

Light pollution and the environment


“It is one of the leading factors for the decline of insect populations,” says Koosje Lamers, a biologist involved in the project. “Fatal traction we call it. Certain insects like moths, but it can also happen to some migratory birds. They are attracted to light and end up circling light sources. The energy they expel makes them easy targets for predators or sometimes they just collapse and die.”


The researchers also claim that as surely as animals and insects suffer from light pollution, so do we. “For roughly 4.5 million years there was a natural rhythm of light. We humans were quite busy destroying that rhythm for the last 100 years. It’s a massive experiment,” Jurriens says.


The project uses the data collected by local observers to track changes in light pollution levels around one of the darkest places in the Netherlands, the Wadden Sea.


Jurriens asks prospective observers to try a bit harder and look for places with as little artificial light as possible.


How to count the stars?


“First of all, take 15 minutes to adapt to the dark. Then you look for the Orion, it’s a very nice constellation and it’s easy to find. Three in a row, 2 above and 2 below. Like an hourglass.”


Jurriens recommends to look for the constellation due northeast. The Orion rises in the northeast around 6 P.M. and travels due southwest with best visibility around 9 P.M.


The initiative encourages us to appreciate the beauty of the night sky, a privilege we might be losing.


“You’re already outside,” he says. So, we might as well explore the night sky.


“Maybe you can see a meteor. Or look for the International Space Station passing by,” suggest Jurriens.


Jurriens had a simple message for those on the fence about participating in the counting: “You just don’t know what you’re missing.”


You can report your findings to the Counting Stairs domain.





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