A nationwide Star Count conducted in February by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has revealed a significant drop in light pollution levels across the United Kingdom. The results, which can be seen in this stunning interactive map, have been launched to mark International Dark Sky Week.
Nearly 8,000 counts were submitted between 6 and 14 February 2021, with 51% of people noting ten or fewer stars, indicating severe light pollution. This compares to 61% during the same period last year. 30 or more stars indicates truly dark skies and were seen by 5% of participants — the highest figure since 2013.
Lockdown is the most likely reason for this change, with reduced human activity resulting in quieter than usual urban areas. Similar patterns have been found with air pollution, which has also dropped across the country.
“IDA is delighted to learn of the turnout for this year’s Star Count, and congratulates CPRE for another successful event,” said IDA Executive Director Ruskin Hartley. “Thousands of people looked through their windows or gazed from their gardens at the night sky. The results are encouraging because light pollution levels appear to be falling, but it still remains an issue in the U.K. and beyond.”
Light pollution can negatively affect human health and wildlife by disturbing animals’ natural cycles and behaviors. Badly designed, wasteful light also contributes to climate change and obscures our connection to the Universe.
Therefore, CPRE and IDA want to combat light pollution through strong local and national policies, while also protecting and enhancing existing dark skies. This involves putting the right light in the right places, such as LED lights that only illuminate where we walk, and turning off lights in places like office buildings when they’re unoccupied.
CPRE and IDA hope this decrease in people experiencing the most severe light pollution — an unintended but positive potential consequence of lockdown — continues long after coronavirus restrictions are lifted so more people can experience the wonder of a truly dark sky.
Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of CPRE, agrees. “Looking up at a starry night sky is a magical sight and one that we believe everyone should be able to experience, wherever they live,” Truman said. “And the great thing is that light pollution is one of the easiest kinds of pollution to reverse by ensuring well designed lighting is used only where and when needed and that there is strong national and local government outdoor lighting policy.”