Researchers from the German “Loss of the Night” project have developed an app for Android smart phones, which counts the number of visible stars in the sky. The data from the app will be used by scientists to understand light pollution on a world wide scale.
n natural areas you can see several thousand stars with the naked eye” says Dr. Christopher Kyba, physicist at the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) and Freie Universität. “In Berlin, we can still see several hundred, but the situation in most large cities and world capitals is far worse.”
The smartphone app will evaluate sky brightness, also known as skyglow, on a worldwide scale. It will be an extension to the “GLOBE at Night” citizen science project, which has been running since 2006. This data can be used to map the distribution and changes in sky brightness, and will eventually allow scientists to investigate correlations with health, biodiversity, energy waste and other factors.
“Life evolved periodic changes of bright days and dark nights” says Dr. Annette Krop-Benesch of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB). “The introduction of artificial light into the atmosphere is changing ecosystems worldwide, and might even have an impact on our health. Unfortunately, we have very little information about light levels in different habitats at night.”
Celebrate the stars! Created in 2003 by high-school student Jennifer Barlow, IDSW has grown to become a worldwide event and a key component of Global Astronomy Month. The goals of IDSW are to appreciate the beauty of the night sky and to raise awareness of how poor-quality lighting creates light pollution.
Light pollution is a growing problem. Not only does it have detrimental effects on our views of the night sky, but it also disrupts the natural environment, wastes energy, and has the potential to cause health problems.
Full Story: http://www.darksky.org/idsw
“We’re thrilled,” said LCOGT Scientific Director Tim Brown, “to have our first telescope in such a well-supported site, with superbly dark skies.”
The 1-meter (40-inch) telescope will be used for both research and outreach to K-12 schools. It is part of a large planned network of LCOGT telescopes to be installed around the world, and the first of five (two 1-meter and three 0.4-meter) and possibly more LCOGT telescopes to be installed at McDonald Observatory over the next few years.
For the past month the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, have been an eye-catching duo in the western sky after sunset. Week by week they’ve been gradually sliding closer together, and their celestial performance is about to culminate.
By March 9th these dazzling evening “stars” are less than 5° apart, about the width of three fingers at arm’s length. Then, from March 12th to 14th, the gap between them closes to just 3° as they pass one another in the evening sky. The pairing of these bright lights will be dramatic, though not especially rare.
This is from Journey to the Stars astronomy blog – check it out, it’s got a lot of great info :)
As the gift-giving season comes to an end, maybe now you’ve got a shiny new telescope to call your own. Congratulations — you’re on your way to discovering many amazing things in the night sky. Be it a long, sleek tube or a compact marvel of computerized wizardry, every new telescope surely has an owner itching to try it out.
“Here are two important tips,” advises Robert Naeye, editor in chief of Sky & Telescope magazine. “First, set up your scope indoors and make sure you understand how everything works before you take it out into the night.” Trying to figure out unfamiliar knobs and settings in the dark and cold is no fun.
“Second,” he adds, “be patient. Spend time with each sky object you’re able to find, and really get to know it.” Too many first-time telescope users expect Hubble-like brightness and color in the eyepiece — when in fact most astronomical objects are very dim to the human eye. And our night vision sees almost everything as shades of gray. Much of what the universe has to offer is subtle, and of course extremely distant.