Tomorrow, Saturday 6th February marks the start of the CPRE's annual Star Count, where they ask individuals to help measure light pollution in their are by counting the visible stars. Now as you may have guessed from the name, (CPRE stands for the Campaign for Rural England) this is mainly focused on England, however they do log any information they receive from folk in Scotland and are happy for us to get involved. Talking about this with people over the last week, one response I've had a couple of times is that nobody expects to be able to see the stars in Scotland in February - and looking out of the window just now, they do indeed have a fair point, as I can barely see out the window for the rain streaming down it, but let's be optimistic.
I don't know much about the night sky, but over the last year with a reduced number of aeroplanes about,
I have been noticing that there are more stars visible on a clear night. A few weeks ago on a cold clear night, I took the opportunity to walk across the fresh snow in the park to stand in a clearing and look at the sky. I don't think I have ever seen so many stars, particularly not in the city. It was as if whilst focusing on one star, thousands of other more distant stars suddenly appeared, like a magic eye picture. That night for the first time I was able to finally decipher the image that we confidently included in our 12 Days of Nature showing how to identify Polaris, the north star.
Looking at the diagram of how to take part in the star count, I think I am going to need some extra help, even if the meteorological conditions cooperate. So I am pleased to say that the Clydesdale Astronomical Society are on hand to help. Next Wednesday 10th February, they are joining us for a beginners guide to stargazing; we'll learn how to tell the difference between a star and space hardware, how small the sun really is (depending on what you are comparing it to) and there will be some moon watching tips thrown in for good measure.
Star gazing helps us to realise how important our planet is, how fragile it could be if we don’t look after it and the huge part we have to play. On that note, don't forget about our Love Your Bog session the following week with Butterfly Conservation about the importance of peatlands in our fight against climate change. Until then, don't forget to check our YouTube channel for this week's selection of videos celebrating the stirrings of Spring.