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Project of the Week #16: Globe at Night

This will be the last Project of the Week for a few weeks while we take a break over Christmas! But what comes with the Christmas season in the northern hemisphere, besides many festivals and hopefully some snow? Plenty of darkness, that's what. And, unless you have a lot of light pollution, some stars.

What does this project do?
Globe at Night is a citizen science project aimed at mapping and raising awareness of excessive artificial light, which blocks our view of the stars and is known to negatively impact human health and wildlife. It is one of Stars4All's initiatives.

What do I have to do?
If you'd like to use your computer, go to Globe at Night and choose the option "Report" at the top. (You might choose to print off the page and take it outside.) Ideally, give your eyes about ten minutes to adjust to the dark. Then, choose on a map where you are, and the date and time. Then compare the number of stars you can see to the star map they give you on the right. (Although you do not need to know the constellations, there is a tutorial for finding them here.) They'll also ask you how cloudy it was, and whether you have a Sky Quality Meter.

There are also web apps for Android and iPhones, called Loss of the Night. These are somewhat more automated, asking for your calendar and location; but they have many interactive features.

Where can I find out more?
About page
Loss of the Night blog
Twitter: @GLOBEatNight
Facebook: Globe at Night

What’s the Citizen Science Project of the Week?
Citizen Science Project of the Week is a regular Monday feature at Doing It Together Science. What project would you like to see featured? Please let us know on the contact form, Facebook page or email us at Please put "Project of the Week" in the subject line and send us a link to the project, some information about it and why you'd like it featured. If you want us to, we'll credit you and tag you on Facebook!

More details
DITOs did some work with Globe at Night in early 2017, especially on Earth Hour, as part of our Into the Night pilot project which UCL ExCiteS did in collaboration with Earthwatch. This blog post details some of the citizen science events we held on Earth Hour, including a stargazing/light pollution recording session using Globe at Night. (It mentions that it didn't work very well for all of us, which to be fair to them was because we didn't all get a chance to download the app and were trying to make do with the web version on our phones. We learned a lot about citizen science event planning that night!)

It is estimated that 99% of the population within the European Union live under light polluted skies. For almost all humanity's history, we have had a dazzling, starry night sky which is the source of many myths and legends as well as the beginnings of mapping and science. However, it's now a rare sight for most of us. During Into the Night, we decided to avoid using the term "light pollution" at least in questionnaires as the term is so subjective, and chose instead "artificial light sources". However, there are three broad types of light pollution: glare, which is unshielded bright light that impacts our vision; light tresspass, which is unwanted light on property such as coming through your bedroom window; and sky glow, which is the bright orange colour that prevents us from seeing the stars and often occurs over cities. The issue is becoming more complex as we phase out sodium lights in favour of LEDs. (If you like the physics aspects of light, this is because sodium lights work by using the emission spectrum of sodium metal, which is the familiar yellow of old streetlights, while LEDs emit in a shorter, higher-energy wavelength, which scatters more and to which we and wildlife are much more sensitive. Amateur astronomers know very well that red light is far less disruptive to our night vision than blue light.)

There are various campaigns around light pollution, such as the British Astronomical Association's Commission for Dark Skies and the International Dark Sky Association. Some campaigns have been successful in changing policy; for example, the Fatal Light Awareness Program in Canada collected a tragic 3000 birds killed during night migration by becoming disorientated and flying into brightly lit buildings, which led to Toronto's Lights Out Program. If you want to install or replace outdoor lighting, ideally have it pointing downwards, so that it only illuminates the areas you want it to; and check out this page for advice on installation.

Globe at Night is an educational project and provides a page of educational resources and data reporting web app translations in 28 languages.