STARGAZERS are being urged to help record how clear the skies of Dorset are.
Between February 17 and 24, the Dorset Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is running its annual citizen science project, Star Count.
People living in the county are being asked to help record how clear views of the night sky are.
“It’s a family-friendly activity that’s quick and easy to do and can help more of us experience and benefit from dark skies,” said a CPRE spokesperson.
“You don’t need a telescope or binoculars, we want to hear what you can spot with the naked eye.
“Dark night skies are a special quality of the Dorset AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and contribute to the areas sense of tranquillity and remoteness.
“The Cranborne Chase AONB – overlapping the boundaries of Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset – was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve in October 2019.
“A combination of clear night skies and low levels of light pollution make Dorset one of the best places in the country for stargazing.”
They said a clear view of a star-filled night sky has ‘hugely beneficial’ effects on our mental health and, like access to other forms of nature, helps reduce stress and increase a sense of peace and wellbeing.
Research has also shown regularly spending time looking at the stars can lower blood pressure and reduce depression, the spokesperson added.
“Yet, the night sky, which is a hugely significant part of our natural environment, has no legal protection,” they explained.
By counting the number of stars they see in the Orion constellation, citizen scientists will help CPRE create an interactive map of the nation’s view of the night sky.
“By showing on a map where light pollution is most serious, we can work with local councils and others to decide what to do about it,” the spokesperson said.
“Together, we can work towards rewilding our skies for the benefit of people and wildlife.”
For more information and to sign up for star count 2023, visit www.cpre.org.uk/starcount.