England’s views of the night sky are being blighted by light pollution, with many people unable to enjoy the beauty of a starry sky, a study has revealed.
A star count conducted by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) found that over half of participants (56.6%) were severely impacted by light pollution and unable to see more than 10 stars in the sky.
Almost 90% of those taking part had their view of the sky limited at least in part due to light pollution caused by street lighting and other artificial lights.
The CPRE is now calling for councils to do more to tackle light pollution, saying their study makes starkly clear the impact it is having on people’s view of our skies.
Emma Marrington, dark skies campaigner at CPRE, said: ‘We’re hugely grateful to the many people who took the time to get out and take part in our Star Count. But it’s deeply disappointing that the vast majority were unable to experience the natural wonder of a truly dark sky, blanketed with stars.
‘Without intervention, our night sky will continue to be lost under a veil of artificial light, to the detriment of our own health, and the health of the natural world.
‘The Star Count results show just how far reaching the glow from street lights and buildings can be seen. Light doesn’t respect boundaries, and careless use can see it spread for miles from towns, cities, businesses and motorways, resulting in the loss of one of the countryside’s most magical sights – a dark, starry night sky.’
Over 2,300 people took part in the CPRE’s star count this year, which ran in the first three weeks of February and was supported by the British Astronomical Association.
Participants were asked to submit the number of stars they saw within the constellation of Orion to help create an interactive map of people’s view of the sky.
More than half of participants failed to see more than 10 stars in the sky, while only 9% of people experienced dark enough skies to see between 21 and 30 stars.
Just 2% of those taking part enjoyed ‘truly dark skies’ and saw over 30 stars – half the proportion of people able to do so in the CPRE’s last star count in 2014.
Light pollution does not just have a detrimental effect on people’s view of the night sky, but also has a negative impact on human health and the behaviour of nature and wildlife, the CPRE said.
The charity has urged local authorities to address light pollution in their local areas by looking at their lighting schemes and evaluating the impact of new housing developments.
Marrington commented: ‘By using well-designed lighting only when and where it is needed, investing in street light dimming schemes and considering part-night lighting… councils have a fantastic opportunity to limit the damage caused by light pollution, reduce carbon emissions and save money.’
The CPRE has also advised members of the public to do their bit to tackle light pollution by only turning on outdoor and security lights when necessary.