Star Count in Sunderland: Why a Wearside astronomer wants us all to look to the sky

A leading astronomer from Sunderland is heading the call for Wearsiders to play their part in testing the quality of the night skies.

Saturday, 6th February 2021, 6:00 am

Dan Monk is the senior astronomer at Kielder Observatory in Northumberland. He is urging people to take part in Star Count, organised by the countryside charity CPRE, formerly the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

To test the effects of light pollution, the charity is asking participants to count the number of stars they can see inside the main rectangle of the Orion constellation.

CPRE has created a night-sky map of the country in order to understand the extent of light pollution, and how it varies in different geographical areas.

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Sunderland astronomer Dan Monk wants us to take part in Star Count, between February 6 and February 14.

The Star Count takes place from Saturday, February 6 and runs until Saturday, February 14.

Sky watchers are asked to choose a clear night when possible during that week, to look at the Orion constellation and count the number of stars they can see inside the rectangle, depicting the “shoulders” and “feet” of the Greek mythological figure.

Dan from Silksworth, who is director of the recently opened Gillian Dickinson Astro-Imaging Academy at the observatory

He says everyone across the North East, whether they’re under the dark skies of Kielder or the bright skies of Sunderland, can contribute to the test.

Dan said: “I grew up in Silksworth and now work at Kielder, so I know the vast differences in how much we can see of the night sky from different places in the region.

“But the Star Count is not a competition between best and worst. It’s a chance to contribute to national research from your front door or back gate – because the organisers are not suggesting anyone leaves their home during lockdown.

“I first developed my love of astronomy from living in a city and looking up, and I think that it’s an easy thing to do during lockdown and also a family thing.

“It would be great to see children getting involved because so many love to look up to the night skies and explore.”

Details can then be sent CPRE’s website, which gives more information on the event. Access the website by clicking here.

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