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Thousands of Schoolchildren To Observe the Night Sky for Science

March 14, 2006

BOULDER—During the first week of spring (March 22–29), schoolchildren around the world will gaze skyward after dark, looking for specific constellations and then sharing their observations through the Internet. The initiative, called GLOBE at Night, could help scientists map light pollution around the world.

GLOBE at Night is a special project of The GLOBE Program (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment), a worldwide science and education program managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and Colorado State University (CSU). Students from more than 17,000 schools in 109 countries have participated in GLOBE, reporting over 14 million environmental observations. This will be the first GLOBE activity to engage students in astronomy.

"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. "These observations will also help us better understand how outdoor lighting that's not well designed can waste energy and block our view of the stars."

Teachers, students, and parents will work together on GLOBE at Night, says project coordinator Kirsten Meymaris. "The project spans a full week in order to improve the chance that all students will get at least one cloud-free night," she says.

GLOBE Night team
The GLOBE at Night team includes (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 composite by Carlye Calvin, UCAR.)

"For the most part, students will go out with their parents," says Henderson. "It's a promotion of family involvement in science."

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 cosponsoring GLOBE at Night. Other cosponsors are the GIS software and technology firm ESRI and the UCAR-based Windows to the Universe program.

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 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.

More details on GLOBE at Night are available on the project Web site. UCAR and CSU manage GLOBE under a cooperative agreement with NASA, with support from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of State. Internationally, GLOBE is a partnership between the United States and more than 100 countries.


Related sites on the World Wide Web 

GLOBE at Night
The GLOBE Program

The National Center for Atmospheric Research and UCAR Office of Programs are operated by UCAR under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation and other agencies. Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any of UCAR's sponsors.

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