ANDOVER’S ‘citizen scientists’ are being encouraged to join in Star Count 2014 – a cosmic census to help tackle light pollution – by The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Last year, 56 per cent of people who did the survey in the South East were able to spot fewer than ten stars, indicating severe light pollution in the region.

Countryside campaigners CPRE, and the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies, in partnership with National Astronomy Week, are asking stargazers to count the number of stars they can see with the naked eye in the constellation of Orion any night between Wednesday 26 February and Saturday 8 March.

Everyone who joins in will have the chance to win a telescope.

Emma Marrington, CPRE Dark Skies campaigner, said: “The Star Count survey can help us build a picture of howlight pollution is affecting views of the night sky in the South East of England.

“We’ll use the results that local people submit to persuade ministers and local councils to reduce light pollution.

“This will also help cut carbon emissions and save money through streetlight switch-off or dimming schemes and low energy lighting.

“If we’re to reclaim our wondrous night skies, we need all councils to take action.

“Light pollution may not seem the most serious environmental threat, but it can ruin the countryside’s tranquil character, blur the distinction between town and country, affect wildlife and deny us the experience of a truly deep, dark and starry sky.

“We must act now to make a difference, and our Star Count really helps us gather the evidence we need.”

Robert Massey from National Astronomy Week said: “Too often our view of the night sky is compromised by the scourge of light pollution, so we’re delighted to be supporting the CPRE Star Count and their campaign to tackle wasted light.

“In addition we have arranged more than 170 public events for our own National Astronomy Week and together, we really hope to show people how wonderful the night sky is.”

Counts can be reported on CPRE’s website