This was originally published in our STEAM Outside program. But such an easy, fun family science opportunity has to be shared!
When you go outside at night and look at the stars, what do you see? Do you see the great expanse of space and the ribbon of milky way across the sky? Or can you only see the moon as the lights of your city block out the stars light?
Well that is what scientists want to know!
Globe at Night is a worldwide citizen science project that asks you to look up at the sky and tell them what you see. The perfect project for kids and families.
What’s the project about?
The Globe at Night project is all about light pollution. But what is light pollution? Well, it is excessive artificial light. When you go out on a clear night in the city but you can’t see any stars, that is from all of the lights around you.
But light pollution is not only about seeing the stars. Too much light 24/7 has adverse effects on ecosystems and even our own bodies. Who knew?? You can learn all about light pollution from the Globe at Night’s “Learn” page.
How do I help?
It is so easy! That is why we are recommending it as a great family opportunity. There are just a few steps. Plus, the kids love being able to stay up a little late to look at the stars.
- Check which Constellation. The Globe at Night project looks at a different constellation of stars each month. So check which one they are working on right now. The site has mythology about each of the constellations and also helps you in identifying it in the sky. I certainly don’t know where all the constellations are so that is very helpful.
- Look at the Magnitude Charts. The magnitude charts are just examples of which stars you can see. If you can only see that very brightest stars in that area, that would be a magnitude of 1. If you are up in the mountains away from artificially light and it looks like the sky is just full of stars, that would be a magnitude of 7.
- Head Outside. Go outside more than an hour after sunset. Find the constellation so you are looking at the right patch of sky and decide what magnitude of brightness the stars are.
- Record your Observation. Get back on the Globe at Night website to report your data. It wants to know date, time, magnitude, sky conditions and location.
That’s it! Pretty easy right? And you can make it fun by setting out a blanket, seeing what other constellations you can find, and just talking in the dark.
A few other things you will find on on the site.
- Map of worldwide observations back until 2006
- Constellation mythologies
- Relevant educational standards for math and science
- Related activities about constellations, demonstrating light pollution, performing a light audit, wildlife workbooks… There is quite a bit of good stuff here.
One thing I really love to see in a citizen science project is examples of the data actually being used! I mean, we the people have gone out and collected this data, so it is just sitting around? Or is someone actually doing something useful with it?
They have a page where you can see interactive maps and download the data sets but the site is missing any kind of information about studies using the data, papers published, etc. Unfortunately, that is a point where I think this project is lacking.
But overall, this is a fun and easy project. So get out and be a scientist! And tag us on social media and share with us how it goes!