Citizen Science with Globe at Night

Night Sky from by Exsodus

Among my fondest childhood memories were the family drives to the desert near our home in Phoenix, Arizona. The time was the mid 1960s. We would drive to the desert, stopping along the way for A&W root beer floats. Once in the desert, near Globe, we would lie on the hood of the car, leaning up against the windshield and look at the stars. The nights were warm and rich with the smells of the desert. I recall the night sky being as black as black could be, pierced with uncountable lights of different intensity. Some were the tiniest pin pricks in the velvet of the night. Some were huge and bright. The Milky Way stretched across the sky and looked dense enough to walk across. My Dad would point out the Constellations of the season. Cassiopeia, Taurus, the Dippers, and the north star, Scorpio and my favorite, Orion with Sirius the Dog Star close at hand.

A few years ago, when I was working at Cibola National Wildlife Refuge on the California/Arizona border, I had the pleasure of reaquainting with all those old friends in a simialarly dark sky. In the distance, however, I could see the city lights of Yuma, 60 miles south, Palm Springs 90 miles to the west and Phoenix, glowing about 150 or so miles to the east. The city glows drowning out the fainter stars at the horizon lines.

Light polution is a growing problem. We have become so accustomed to our urban street lights glowing all night long at full power but they do cause problems. Too many lights and too little dark interfere with the production of melatonin and important hormone in the body. Too much light interferes with Sea Turtle hatchlings finding the ocean as many times they will head for the lights.(1) Urban lighting also interferes with migrating birds and other animals. (2) Finally, the use of high power lights  at the intensity we use them cost billions of dollars each year and is a waste of energy when light is not focused where it is needed. Now I am not advocating that we abandon the use of lighting in public places. The thing is, there are eco-friendly lights that use a focused direction to place the light where it is wanted and has the most effect. This page, at Campaign for Dark Skies compares good and bad lighting. The tools are there if people care to use them.

Globe at Night as a citizen science campaign in progress right now. This campaign asks people from all over the world to go out at night, about an hour after sunset, and make observations about the intensity of the stars in your view. This year’s program began on February 21st and runs through March 6th. You can post your observations via a web app anytime during that window. So, how do you particpate?

  1. Find your latitude. The Globe site will use an app to locate your latitude via your IP address. You can also use a map or a GPS if you have one.
  2. Go outside and find Orion. Scroll your mouse over the night sky at the Globe site and Orion will light up.
  3. Use the star Magnitude charts or the interactive tool to decide how bright the stars are in your area.
  4. Report your data using this web app.
  5. Learn more at Dark Skies Ranger program.

If you wish, you can go to another location and submit data from there as well. As long as you do so before March 6th.

And as always, feel the wonder.

(1)Environmental Health Perspective

(2) The Campaign for Dark Skies.

(3) Globe at Night

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