New program is a star
GLOBE at Night
organizers (left to right): Randy Russell,
Dennis Ward, Susan Gallagher, and Kirsten
Meymaris (all from UCAR); Dave Salisbury
(University of Colorado); and Sandra
The stars have come out for a new GLOBE initiative.
The organizers of GLOBE at Night, which recruited schoolchildren
worldwide to make observations of the night sky in
March, say the event was such a success that it will
be held again next year. “The participation
of schoolchildren, families, and citizen scientists
across the country and around the world was incredible,” says
EO’s Sandra Henderson, director of GLOBE education. “This
is definitely an event that we can build upon.”
More than 18,000 people in 96 countries took part in
the program, which was held during the first days of
spring (March 22–31). They gazed skyward on at
least one evening, looked for the constellation Orion,
and shared their observations through the Internet.
The findings can help scientists map light pollution
around the world.
GLOBE at Night was designed to promote family involvement
in science. Participants used their observations of
Orion to measure the brightness of the sky at a variety
of urban and rural sites. “This event was useful
in teaching about the impact of artificial lighting
on local environments and in raising awareness about
the ongoing loss of people’s ability to study
or simply enjoy the night sky in many parts of the
world,” explains EO’s Dennis Ward, who
helped coordinate the event and contributed to the
GLOBE at Night Web site.
Kirsten Meymaris, GLOBE at Night project coordinator,
explains that the program will be expanded to gather
more information about variations in the night sky. “We
see this year’s observations as a beginning,” she
says. “We hope to increase the level of participation
next year and focus on specific regions, such as dense
cities and sparsely populated rural areas, to gain
more insights into the impact of artificial lighting.”
The program also aimed to teach young participants
about the economic and geographic factors that affect
light pollution in their communities and around the
world. In many Colorado mountain towns, for example,
where residents and visitors want to see stars clearly
at night, local ordinances restrict the amount of light
that can be aimed skyward.
One of the program’s highlights was a Mesa Lab
star party on March 23 that drew dozens of people.
The family event featured a discussion about Orion,
stargazing tips, and children’s crafts activities
such as outlining the shape of Orion with glow-in-the-dark
puffy paint. SCD’s Leonard Sitongia shared his
telescope for star viewing.
Next year’s program will take place March 8–21.
It will encompass two weekends, enabling more people
to make observations. In addition, Kirsten says it
will include a cloud estimate component so that people
who live in overcast areas, such as the Pacific Northwest,
can take part even if they don’t see stars. “If
participants go outside and look at the night sky and
see nothing but clouds, I want them to feel like they
can still make a contribution,” she explains.
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
Didáctica de la Astronomía (Support Center
for the Teaching of Astronomy), which were cosponsors
of GLOBE at Night. Other cosponsors were the GIS software
and technology firm ESRI and the UCAR-based Windows
to the Universe program. UCAR Communications helped
the program organizers publicize the event.
Astronomers have already begun to analyze the GLOBE
at Night observations. Mapped results can be explored
using the GLOBE at Night Map Viewer, built with support
from ESRI (see On the Web). A student exploration guide
is in development for the Map Viewer to help students
navigate observations from different parts of the world.
Light pollution is a growing problem for astronomical
observing programs around the world. According to the
International Dark-Sky Association,
some 30% of all U.S. outdoor lighting
is directed skyward, contaminating
the night sky and costing at least $1.5 billion in
electricity per year.
• by David
On the Web
about GLOBE at Night, including the Map Viewer
In this issue...
from the field: Turbulence and pollution
and climate change
program is a star
Gilman wins Hale Prize
the helm of ESSL
Digital Image Library
Just One Look
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