Bring Back Dark Skies! – A Citizen Science Project

What is This Project?

Bring Back Dark Skies” is an initiative from Astrophile Education Services India to fight the light pollution which is eating away our skies. The Project will be a citizen science project under which students and enthusiasts will observe the night sky and report data for the said observation.

Why is this project Important?

Today all the major cities and towns around the world are gripped with the problem of light pollution. This is another very severe kind of pollution which may not be deadly like air pollution but challenges our intellect and learning ability to the most. The light pollution creates an artificial layer of light above us which causes the faint light from the celestial bodies to get even more faint that they are not even visible in medium sized amateur telescopes. This has lead to reduction in the numbers of stars visible from our city skies. Of course the high-rise building also affect our seeing but light pollution affects our sky entirely.

The effects are even more severe during the winter months as the cold air and fog adds to a thicker blanket. This is the reason why we see more stars from a smaller town or outskirts of the city limit.

How this project will unfold?

The project is a citizen science project which means anyone can participate. All you have to do it to go out at a given time and look at the sky and identify a constellation in the sky. Count the number of stars you can see and report. Also you should know your location of observation, sky conditions, apparent light condition in the surrounding, and so on. All this data needs to be input in the form below.

More participation will mean more data. The data will be collected in a form and hence will be accumulated over a period of time. We expected to collect over 10,00,000 data points in next 5 years from across the country. Each data point will be filtered and assessed for a subjective sky quality study creating a map of light pollution from around the country. Once the report is compiled, the same will be studied for anomalies and corrected if anything is found.

When will the project start?

The Project will start with third quarter of Moon till first quarter of moon including both evenings for next 60 months. First such observations needs to be recorded on September 10th evening while the first phase will go on till September 24th evening. These 15 days will give us Moon rising past midnight to moon setting before midnight. 

Where can you participate?

You can participate in this project from anywhere around in the country. Since this is a project confined within the boundary of our country, Indians travelling abroad may not be able to record the data points for the said period. Non Indian citizens who are living in India for any part of duration of the project can also participate. The requirement is to observe the skies in India and from the farthest reaches of the county across states and landscapes are encouraged to participate.

Procedure and Methodology:

  1. Visit the campaign page for the star chart and PDF stored for your use. Download the map and keep a print out for your reference.

  2. During the campaign dates, go outside more than an hour after sunset (8-10 pm local time). The Moon should not be up. 

  3. Carry a Paper and Pen/Pencil and note your sky condition as to whether the sky is cloudy or not in the area, also mark the position of bright light sources as to if it is in the front or back or on what side. If you can mention the exact direction, it would be beneficial. Use a torch with red light (or cover your torch with red plastic/balloon) to record your observations.

  4. Use a night sky app on your phone outside to find the constellation from where you are. Once located the constellation, remember its position in the sky.

  5. Close your eyes for 10 minutes. Let your eyes become used to the dark for 10 minutes before your first observation. Avoid immediate observation as your eyes are not acclimatised to see in the dark yet. Give yourself about 10 minutes so that you can see even more faint stars. During these 10 minutes do not look at your mobile phone screen or any surrounding light. This can hamper your viewing.

  6. Observe that part of the sky for about one minute and focus on each star you can see. Once done, check from the star map and try to correlate which map is the closest to the one you have seen. If the number of stars observed are in between the number of stars from the map, then pick up the map with less number of stars. Note this detail on the paper. Also note the exact timing of your observation.

  7. Go to the “Bring Back Our Skies” campaign page to enter your observed data. You can do it directly on your phone from your observation point.

  8. Please type the required information in the relevant section of the form. For your location, you can choose google maps and right click on the blue icon and click what’s here. This will give you your exact location.

  9. Enter the star chart number and also the count of stars in the relevant box.

  10. Chose the amount of cloud cover at the time of observation and then click on the “SUBMIT” button.

  11. Once submitted, you data will be recorded to us which will get us closer to our target of quantifying light pollution in your area and by extension, the whole country.

Click here to download the activity guide in English.
Click here to download the activity guide in Hindi