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GLOBE looks at light pollution


Eyes to the skies
Eyes to the skies: (left to right) Dennis Ward, Randy Russell, Susan Gallagher, and Kirsten Meymaris (all from UCAR); Dave Salisbury (Colorado State University); and Sandra Henderson (UCAR). (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

During the first week of spring (22–29 March), schoolchildren around the world will gaze skyward after dark, looking for specific constellations and then sharing their observations through the Internet to help map light pollution around the world. GLOBE at Night is a special project of The GLOBE Program, managed by UCAR and Colorado State University (CSU). Students from more than 17,000 schools in 109 countries have participated in GLOBE to date.

"The observations made during GLOBE at Night will help students and scientists together assess how the quality of the night sky varies around the world," says Sandra Henderson, director of education for GLOBE. The project spans a full week in order to improve the chance that all students will get at least one cloud-free night in their area.

Light pollution is a growing problem for astronomical observing programs around the world. According to the International Dark-Sky Association, some 30% of the light from all U.S. outdoor fixtures is directed skyward, contaminating the night sky and wasting at least $1.5 billion in electricity per year. By having students in many places hunt for the same constellations, such as Orion, GLOBE at Night will allow the students to compare what they see with what others see, giving them a sense of how light pollution can vary from place to place. The young observers will also learn more about the economic and geographic factors that control light pollution in their communities and around the world.

GLOBE at Night was inspired in part by a similar project carried out in Arizona and Chile by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and the Centro de Apoyo a la Didactica de la Astronomia, which are co-sponsoring GLOBE at Night. Other sponsors are ESRI and the UCAR-based Windows to the Universe program.

On the Web

GLOBE at Night



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