Rural charity CPRE is holding its annual star count from Saturday to establish the ability to witness the wonders of the constellations, which have been shown to help improve mental health and well-being. to be.
Last year’s survey recorded much brighter and darker skies, which was attributed to the nationwide lockdown minimizing the impact of light pollution as people were confined to their homes to contain the spread of Covid- 19.
However, senior CPRE officials said they expected the night sky would not be as easy to observe after the company reopened.
Tom Fyans, CPRE Deputy Managing Director, said: “The night sky is half of our experience of nature; but we don’t often think of it like that.
“In itself, this helps to balance our mental health and improve our emotional well-being. Recall that experience of a starry sky and you instinctively know it has calmed you down.
“But our view of the night sky – and all the benefits it undoubtedly brings – is erased by light pollution.
“Like all forms of pollution, it damages our mental and physical health, and also has a serious impact on wildlife.
“Yet it is a form of pollution that is allowed to increase year on year with no effort being made to control the damage it causes.”
In 2021, more than 7,000 people took part in CPRE’s star count, and the proportion of participants reporting “severe light pollution”, defined as 10 or fewer stars visible to the naked eye in the constellation Orion, was dropped from 61% to 51 percent.
The proportion of “really dark skies”, defined as more than 30 stars visible in the constellation Orion, has increased from 3% to 5%.
This was attributed to the tally taken during the first national lockdown, with reduced levels of artificial light leading to a clearer view of the night sky.
An annual Dark Skies Festival is currently held in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and North York Moors National Park until March 6.
Both national parks have become increasingly popular in recent years as places for astronomy, and they were both officially designated as Dark Sky Preserves in December 2020.
However, national park officials have stressed that work is intensifying to ensure light pollution is minimized and dark skies are protected.
Audits are being carried out on national park buildings to assess their lighting, while monitoring equipment is being installed to ensure dark skies are not impacted.
Director of Park Services at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Kathryn Beardmore, said: “The dark sky is one of the special qualities of the national park and – as an international dark sky reserve – the number of stars is an important tool to help us understand where light pollution is having an effect, so we can support residents, businesses and local authorities in these areas with good lighting practices.”
A senior official from the British Astronomical Association has highlighted the importance of dark skies to the nation’s health.
Bob Mizon, from the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies, said the night sky is a “great antidote to the stresses of modern life”.
But he added: “It’s literally 50% of our environment – from east to west – and it’s the only part of our environment that is not protected by law.
“People come to the conclusion very quickly that what we do to the environment has a direct impact on our well-being.
“Like coral reefs dying and rivers clogged with plastic bags – another aspect of our impact on the environment is our pollution of the night sky and yet it’s completely unprotected.”
Star rating will run from Saturday 26th February to Sunday 6th March, and more details are available at www.cpre.org.uk/