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Not such a starry night: light pollution spoils the view of stargazers Science

Light pollution hinders a constellation of the night sky for more than half the people throughout England, a census has found.

Fifty-seven percent of the observers struggled to see more than 10 stars, while only 2% of the participants said they experienced "really dark skies," which allowed them to count more than 30, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England survey ( CPRE)).

People in cities and in the countryside were encouraged to count how many stars they could see with the naked eye within the constellation Orion, which is only visible in the winter months.

Campaigners said the results of the star ratings, supported by the British Astronomical Association, demonstrated the problem of light pollution and how it influenced "one of the most magical sights of the countryside – a dark starry sky."

They said the results of the survey to chart the night sky in England suggested that the government, city councils, and the general public could do more to reduce the negative effects of artificial light from streets and buildings.

Emma Marrington, a campaigner with a dark sky at the CPRE, said: "We owe a huge thank you to the many people who have taken the time to get out and participate in our number of stars. But it is deeply disappointing that the vast majority were unable to experience the natural wonder of a really dark sky covered with stars, without intervention our night sky will be lost under a veil of artificial light, at the expense of our own health and the health of the natural world.

"The results of the number of stars show how far outstretched the glow of street lighting and buildings can be seen. Light has no limits, and careless use can spread it miles away from cities, businesses and highways."

She suggested better designed lighting, street lighting dimming schedules & night lighting – where in consultation with local communities and police some street lighting is switched off during the small hours – could be an opportunity to limit the damage caused by light pollution, CO2 emissions reduce and save money.

The CPRE said the star count, which ran for the first three weeks of February, involved 2,300 people. The full results are available on its website.

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