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How Many Stars do You See at Night?

Star Light, Star Bright - How Many Stars do You See at Night?

From a young age, New Zealanders are taught to be ‘Tidy Kiwis’. Incorrect disposal of litter is frowned upon and early on we learn the impact of not valuing the environment around us. But there’s another type of pollution happening in New Zealand that needs the attention of young Kiwis.

Light pollution from urban lights brightens the night sky, hiding all but the brightest objects. Being able to view the fainter stars, nebulae, Milky Way and planets in the night sky above connects us to both nature, and the solar system and galaxy that surround us. Most of us cannot see these wonders because of the light emanating from the towns and suburbs we live in.

This year for the ‘Out-of-this-World’ Primary Science Week (19-23 May), children were encouraged to go outside at night with a parent or guardian, and measure the effect of light pollution near their home as part of a national research project.

The National Primary Science Week Dark Sky Survey helps school children build a picture of the extent and nature of light pollution in New Zealand. Details are available on the Stardome website at http://www.stardome.org.nz/education/primary-science-week/psw-dark-sky-survey/.

The national survey has four main aims:

• Rekindle the wonder and appreciation of our night skies;

• Raise awareness among children of light pollution problems;

• Identify local light pollution problem areas, leading to action to address the issues;

• Discover local dark sky sites, suitable for great viewing of the wonders above.

This investigation comprises two surveys: a basic questionnaire for younger students and parents or guardians, and a more detailed survey for older students, teachers and other adults.

How much light pollution is in Mangere, Auckland? What about in Timaru? Do you have a truly dark sky? Or are you missing out on the skies your grandparents enjoyed? Adventurous children are encouraged to send their sky-watching results to Stardome for collation at education@stardome.org.nz. Stardome will provide
an evaluation of the submitted data for national comparisons of local dark skies.

Beth van der Loeff, Education Manager at Stardome, says “Light pollution is a frustrating barrier to experiencing the amazing astronomical wonders above us.

“This Primary Science Week activity gets children to observe their environment more closely and participate in a national science data collection.”

National Primary Science Week is an annual education event encouraging science exploration and education for primary and intermediate aged children, focusing this year on astronomical and space science. The New Zealand Association of Primary Science Educators (NZAPSE) has engaged with Stardome and other astronomy educators to provide support for National Primary Science Week.

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