THE Peak District Dark Skies Group is seeking the help of residents and visitors to help monitor the impact of light pollution on the night sky.
The group is asking people to join in an annual star survey by assessing the brightness of the constellation Orion over the Peak District National Park.
Orion – the hunter – is one of the wonders of the night sky in this early part of the year and can be recognized by his 'belt' of three bright stars in a line with a smaller 'dagger' of three stars below.
On clear nights up to February 2 people are asked to identify Orion and, using the star charts available at www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/darkskies, record details of where they were and which chart best matches what they could see. There is no limit to the amount of observations that can be made, skies permitting.
Peak District Dark Skies co-ordinator Sue Smith said: "We'd be really grateful for people's help with our 'Orion in the Peak'. Previous surveys have been very encouraging and have shown that 80 per cent of people in the national park were able to stargaze under excellent skies. Our ability to see the stars is very much impacted by artificial light, so we hope it will prompt people to think about whether outside lighting is necessary, and where and when it's needed.
"We can all help to reduce light pollution which affects not only our view of the skies but also the wellbeing of people and wildlife.
"The monitoring will guide us in protecting our landscapes and dark skies for all to enjoy now and in the future."
All the information needed to take part, including how to report your observations, is available from the website www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/darkskies
The Peak District Dark Skies Group includes the National Park Authority, Nottingham Trent University, and local astronomical societies. Working together to promote accessible dark sky sites, they have installed information panels in national park car parks at Surprise View near Hathersage; Parsley Hay near Hartington and Minninglow near Pikehall.