The 2010 Great World Wide Start Count date has been set! A Windows to the Universe citizen science event, you can join with thousands of other people across the globe anytime from October 29 through November 12 in looking up to see how many stars you can see.
Last year, Dynamic Patterns Research participated (read more), and it was a great opportunity for father and 3 1/2-year old daughter to count, compare, learn about constellations, and start to think about the ridiculous notion that we are part of a universe that is so unfathomably enormous.
The goals of this program are to raise awareness of light pollution in your area and to increase the interest of the broader public in learning more astronomy. Developed by the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the Windows to the Universe Great World Wide Star Count is in its fourth year of data collection, and should continue to grow as a very interesting research resource for monitoring the evolving night-time global landscape of light output.
In fact, you can now take a look at the results from the previous three years [ VIEW DATA ], and begin to search for patterns and correlations between how many stars were seen and expected light output from the area. You might find initially, however, that the data is still very sparse, and for this resource to be particularly useful, a much larger set of results really will be required.
Since the data is also provided as a Google Earth KMZ file (download 2007, 2008, 2009), it’s very interesting to overlay the set with a light pollution map (download a North America map). As an example, we’ve completed a simple North American map overlay using Google Earth, and focused into our own data point in Illinois that we provided last year:
The darker the blue of each “data point dot” corresponds to more stars seen at the observation location. So, it seems that there are pretty dark dots at locations that would be expected to have lower visibility. However, this array of data is such a small data set to consider at this time that it is difficult to make any obvious conclusions. But, the potential to use more of this data to support very interesting and useful analysis should be apparent. And, all of the data is entirely accessible to the citizen scientist, so we can easily explore and consider the results.
When planning to make your own observations anytime between October 29 and November 12, all you need to do to prepare is a little stretching out of your neck for looking up (or, find a nice blanket to lie down on your back and view in comfort). If you live in the northern hemisphere, then gaze toward the constellation Cygnus, and toward the constellation Sagittarius if in the southern hemisphere. Simply “count” the stars that you can see at your location–or estimate the visual field that you observe–and match your viewing with the reference magnitude charts provided by the program. Then, simply report your observation online along with your latitude and longitude coordinates (find where you’re at on the globe). If you have any questions on how to participate, please feel free to comment here or contact us.
Please let us know if you plan to participate in this year’s count, and especially if you are interested in creating any of your own analysis of the results. The project really needs a significant increase in participation to provide a meaningful data set, so please spread the word to your friends and colleagues who you can encourage to join.
We would like to develop a team of citizen scientists who not only want to submit their own observation, but who also want to do an independent analysis on the annual global results. We will then present your thoughts and observations right here on Dynamic Patterns Research.
The Great World Wide Star Count :: October 29 through November 12, 2010 [ VISIT ]