Rural campaigners urge Valentine’s lovers to look to the stars

The night sky over Northamptonshire taken by Calvin Ginns of the NAA
The night sky over Northamptonshire taken by Calvin Ginns of the NAA

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is urging people in the region to put aside the flowers and chocolates and join in with an annual star count this Valentine’s evening.

The CPRE is supporting Star Couont 2013 which runs until Monday, February 18, and which is used to monitor the impact of light pollution.

A CPRE spokesman said: “It’s going to be a good night tonight for looking at the sky in the midlands - the rest of England is miserable and rainy.

“So instead of buying mass-produced tokens of forgettable affection, stroll into the evening, look up to the night sky and count the stars that are still sending out light from thousands of years ago.

“Orion’s easy to spot – face south and look for a rectangle of bright stars. While you’re there, make a note of how many stars you can see within Orion’s constellation.

“This will help CPRE map levels of light pollution, so that we can restore the skies to the darkness required to contemplate our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and once again see the night sky’s natural beauty. This is also a fantastic opportunity to use that compass app you’ve always wondered what to do with.”

Stargazers could also be in for an extra treat when a near-Earth asteroid – called 2012 DA14 – will pass very close to Earth this Friday, February 15. Astronomers estimate that, at its closest, it’ll be within the orbit of the moon and even closer than some communications satellites.

You will need a star-chart, a small telescope, and to be a fairly experienced observer to see it, though.

For more information visit www.cpre.org.uk/starcount

How to take part in Star Count 2013:

Any night until Monday, February 18:

Locate the Orion constellation, which is in the southern night sky (the direction that satellite dishes face). The main area of the constellation is bounded by four bright stars. Your count should not include the four corner stars – only those within the rectangular boundary – but do include the stars in the middle known as Orion’s three-star belt – see illustration at www.cpre.org.uk

It is recommended that observations are made after 7pm so the sky is sufficiently dark. Try to do your count on a night when the sky is clear, with no haze or clouds.

People should make a count of the number of stars seen with the naked eye (not with telescopes or binoculars) and then simply complete the online survey form: www.cpre.org.uk/starcount or tweet results @cpre with number of stars counted, and postcode or area so that they can be plotted on the star map