Eyes to the skies for the Big Star Count!

Visit Isle of Wight is encouraging us to join in with countryside charity CPRE’s Star Count 2020.

The Isle of Wight offers incredible opportunities to view the star in the skies, and CPRE want to know what we can see in one certain patch of the night time sky.

We’re being asked to look towards the constellation of Orion, clearly visible when looking south at this time of year – provided the clouds stay away!

The Star Count will take place from Friday 21 to Friday 28 February.

Visit Isle of Wight wants Islanders and visitors alike to get involved, as the results from Star Count will help the CPRE make an interactive map of where star-spotters are enjoying dark skies as part of a cosmic census that will help map light pollution and dark skies across the country.

Will Myles, MD at Visit Isle of Wight, says:

‘The Isle of Wight has a high quality of night sky and Star Count 2020 is a fun and easy way to connect with our starry skies and show people that the Island is one of the best places in the UK for stargazing.

‘The Visit Isle of Wight website is a great place to start as it shows the best places to stargaze and has lots of tips for observing the night sky.’

Paul England, Director of the Island Planetarium at Fort Victoria Country Park – a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site – is hugely enthusiastic about the project and says this time of year is perfect for star counting:

‘Orion is fairly easy to identify. At this time of year, in the next few weeks, look towards the south, early in the evening after it gets dark, you’ll see a large rectangle. Across the middle of it there are three stars, which represent the belt of Orion. Basically, try to count the number of stars you can see within the bright four rectangular stars.’

Paul says the Isle of Wight is an ideal place to start star counting:

‘We’re very lucky, we’ve got some superb skies and since the lighting was changed, it’s got even darker! Here at Fort Victoria, we already are a Dark Sky Discovery Site. We get some superb evenings, [and] during the evening, you really can see the Milky Way stretching across the sky here.’

To take part, star spotters are asked to choose a clear night between February 21 and 28. During this time the moon is less bright, making it easier to carry out the cosmic census.

Without using a telescope or binoculars, people can then count the stars within the rectangle shape formed by Orion, except the four stars on the outer corners, then submit their results.

Using the results from the annual star count, CPRE will lobby the government and local authorities to tackle light pollution, and also highlight which ‘dark sky’ areas need to be protected and enhanced by strong policies.

To find out how to take part in Star Count 2020, please go to https://www.cpre.org.uk/get-involved/take-action/star-count-2020/