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March 7th: GLOBE at Night 2011


Date: March 7, 2011

Title: GLOBE at Night 2011

Podcasters: Connie Walker, Rob Sparks, and Carmen Austin

Organization: The National Optical Astronomy Observatory – www.noao.edu

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Description: In the United States alone, 4 out of 5 people living in cities and suburbs have never experienced the beauty and awe of pristinely dark skies. Many will never see the Milky Way galaxy arch across their night sky. Light pollution is obscuring people’s long-standing natural heritage to view stars. Join us as the Dark Skies Crusader teaches us how participate in GLOBE at Night. GLOBE at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by encouraging everyone to measure local levels of night sky brightness and contribute observations online to a world map. All it takes is a few minutes to participate between 8 and 10pm, March 22 through April 4. Submitting your observations is now easier than ever using our slick web application. Your measurements will make a world of difference. For more information, visit the website at www.globeatnight.org.

Bio: Podcast co-author, Connie Walker is an associate scientist and senior science education specialist in the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) group at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona. She directs the worldwide citizen science campaign on monitoring sky brightness called GLOBE at Night (www.globeatnight.org). She also chaired the global cornerstone project on Dark Skies Awareness for the International Year of Astronomy (www.darkskiesawareness.org).

Podcast co-author, Rob Sparks (Narrator) is a science education specialist in the EPO group at NOAO and works on the Galileoscope project (www.galileoscope.org), providing design, dissemination and professional development. He also pens a great blog at halfastro.wordpress.com.

New to portraying podcast characters, Carmen Austin (as Suzy), Chris Dunlop (as Stan), and Britny Delp (Sarah) are University of Arizona undergraduates who work to support programs, events and other efforts as part of the NOAO EPO group. The returning star by popular demand is Chuck Dugan (as Dark Skies Crusader), a public program specialist for the NOAO Kitt Peak Visitor Center.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — no one. We still need sponsors for many days in 2011, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at signup@365daysofastronomy.org.


Narrator #1 (in the style of a Saturday movie serial) : It’s a beautiful spring evening in Tucson. The Swanson family is roasting marshmallows and making smores over the fire pit in their backyard.

Sound effect: cracking fire/crickets

Sarah (Mom): Suzy, Stan, come here please! It’s time to start your observing homework for your astronomy class.

Suzy: We’re coming.

Stan (muffled): Here are the star charts.

Sarah: Stan, don’t talk with your mouth full.

Stan: Sorry.

Sarah: Okay, what constellation are you supposed to find first?

Stan: We are supposed to find Leo the Lion. Suzy, set the planisphere for 8pm on March 24th.

Suzy: According to the planisphere, Leo is high in the southeast.

Sarah: I think I see it! See that bright star there? What is that star?

Suzy: That must be Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

Sarah: Right Suzy.

Stan: I see the star Denebola at Leo’s tail. Did you know that means “lion’s but”?

Sarah: STAN! Yes, Stan, that is Denebola.

Stan: I can sort of see Leo, but it doesn’t look quite like the chart.

Suzy: Yeah, the head is supposed to look like a backwards question mark, but the top star is missing.

Sarah: Look really close…there it is. That is Rasalas. You can just see it.

Suzy: But the star chart says its fourth magnitude.

Stan: Yeah, our teacher said we should be able to see stars as faint as sixth magnitude.

Sarah: You’re right, there are a lot of stars on this chart that I can’t see. I wonder why?

Sound effect: footsteps approaching

Dark Skies Crusader (DSC): Greetings Swanson Family! I think I can explain what is going on.

Sarah/Suzy/Stan: Dark Skies Crusader!

DSC: You are seeing the effects of light pollution.

Sarah: What’s light pollution?

Suzy: Oh, our teacher mentioned that. It’s when the night sky is lit up by artificial lights.

Stan: Yeah, she said that lights that point upward waste energy.

DSC: Precisely. Fortunately, the citizen science program GLOBE at Night will let you join in the fight against night pollution?

Sarah: That sounds great! How do we join?

DSC: You should visit the website http://www.globeatnight.org Full directions are on the web. I can show you what to do. First we need to know our location.

Stan: Hey, My Droid (cell phone) has GPS. Let’s see…it says I am at 32°13′18″N 110°55′35″W.

DSC: Great! Next we need to find the constellation Leo. Our friends in the southern hemisphere need to find the constellation Crux.

Suzy: We were just observing Leo. It’s over there.

DSC: That’s fantastic. There are star charts on the GLOBE at Night website to help as well. Next we compare what we see in the night sky to the magnitude charts found on the website. Here, I printed them out for you.
Sound effect: Shuffling paper

Sarah: The charts are labeled Magnitude 1 through Magnitude 7. The Magnitude 1 Chart hardly has any stars on it.

DSC: That’s because it represents a very light polluted sky, like you would see from the center of a large city.

Stan: Wow! Look at all the stars on the Magnitude 7 Chart!

DSC: Yes, the Magnitude 7 Chart shows what you would see from a very dark site well away from artificial lights like if you were in a remote national park.

Sarah: So which chart do you think matches what we see in the sky the best?

Suzy: Well, if I look really closely, I think I can see almost all the stars on the Magnitude 4 Chart.

Stan: Yeah, that’s definitely the closest chart.

DSC: Absolutely! Now go to the website www.globeatnight.org and enter your data. Oh, Stan, this year GLOBE at Night has a web application for mobile devices. You can enter your data from your smart cell phone.

Stan: Cool! I am going to try that right now!

Sound effect: clicking of a cell phone.

Suzy: Hey, it automatically filled in the date, time and our GPS coordinates AND shows Leo just like I see it in the night sky!

DSC: Yes, absolutely. It got that information from your cell phone’s GPS system, so all you have to do is enter your data, your country and cloud cover information. If you go back to the website, you can see your data plotted on a map.

Stan: That was fun!

Suzy: Yeah, I want to do it again!

DSC: Well, you are free to make as many observations as you like from different locations. The more detailed data we get from various locations, the better out maps will be. You can make observations from home, friend’s houses or school. If you got out for dinner, shopping or to see a movie, you can make additional observations from outside the store, movie theater or even at the restaurant.

Sarah: How does this help fight light pollution?

DSC: GLOBE at Night raises awareness of the issue. The data can be presented to local officials to help improve night-time lighting and to encourage businesses to be responsible citizens.

Sarah: But what about safety and security?

DSC: Don’t worry friend. I know some lights are necessary. Well-designed lighting does not point up into the sky and lights only when and where it is needed. It can save energy and increase night-time security.

Suzy: Thanks for showing us how to participate in GLOBE at Night, Dark Skies Crusader.

DSC: Your welcome, Suzy. Now I have to be on my way to help others.

Stan: Can I watch you fly away?

DSC: Fly away? I can’t fly. I wear the cape for effect only!

Narrator #1: Join us next time as the Dark Skies Crusader continues his ongoing quest for truth, justice and dark skies preservation!

(Silent Pause)

Rob: Hi, This is Rob Sparks from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and I am here with Connie Walker (also of NOAO) who directs the GLOBE at Night program. So Connie, tell me what is the goal of the GLOBE at Night campaign?

Connie: The goal of the international star-hunting campaign, GLOBE at Night is to bring awareness to the public on issues of light pollution. We try to do that by encouraging citizen-scientists worldwide to participate in the GLOBE at Night campaign and also to record the brightness of the night sky.

Rob: So why is light pollution an important issue?

Connie: In the United States alone, where 4 out of 5 residents live in cities and suburbs, many people have never experienced the beauty and awe of pristinely dark skies and they probably will never have that opportunity.

More than 17 billion kilo-Watt-hours or over $2 billion of upward directed light is wasted each year. Under an unpolluted sky we ought to see 5000 stars, yet we see only a couple hundred from most suburban areas. Light pollution has very negative effects on health and wildlife, as well. Yet, even though light pollution is one of the fastest growing environmental problems worldwide, it’s one of the easiest to address on local levels. If you want to know more about this, you can go to the GLOBE at Night website (www.globeatnight.org).

Rob: How do people participate in GLOBE at Night?

Connie: During 2 winter or spring weeks of moonless evenings, children and adults go out to the night sky and match what they see of the constellation Orion or Leo or Crux (if you’re living in the southern hemisphere) with 7 star charts. Each the star charts has progressively fainter stars and you can then submit your choice of which star chart most resembles what you see online at the GLOBE at Night website. And you also include your date, your time and your location and all that information helps to create a light pollution map that is worldwide.

Rob: There are some exciting new additions to this year’s program. First, I understand you can submit data using a smartphone this year.

Connie: Yes, you definitely can. It’s so easy to use, it’s remarkable. This year we have children and adults submitting their sky brightness measurements in real time with smart phones or tablets by using the web application you can find at the GLOBE at Night website (www.globeatnight.org/webapp/). With smart phones and tablets, the location, date and time register automatically. For those without smart mobile devices, user-friendly tools on the GLOBE at Night report page were reconfigured to determine latitude and longitude more easily and accurately. So for instance, you can enter your home address or a common place name on the reports page and a marker will pop up on a map automatically. You can also move that marker around if its not exactly where you stood to take those observations and the latitude and longitude will be updated.

Rob: You have also started an “Adopt a Street” program.

Connie: Yes we have. GLOBE at Night is prototyping an “Adopt a Street” program in Tucson. Other cities and towns are welcome to do the same thing in their own town if they would like to. Hopefully next year it will be more widely based. The aim was for people to adopt different major or semi-major streets and take measurements every mile or so for the length of the street. The grid of measurements that is made from this would canvas the town, allowing for comparisons of light levels over time (like hours during the night, days during the week, or years). It would also allow you to search for dark sky oases or light polluted areas.

In addition We have also increased to 2 campaigns this year. The intent is to offer eventually a year-round program for seasonal studies. The GLOBE at Night data can also be used to compare with datasets on wildlife, health, and energy consumption. Recently, NOAO, for instance, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department have started a project with GLOBE at Night data and bat telemetry to examine a dark skies corridor in the northern portion of Tucson where the endangered bats fly.

Rob: That’s sounds like a great collaboration. Finally, GLOBE at Night is really increasing its social media presence

Connie: Ah yes, we are now in the 21st century so to speak. We are now on Facebook and Twitter. The facebook and Twitter links can also be found on the GLOBE at Night webpage (www.globeatnight.org).
Rob: That’s great. What are the dates of the citizen-science campaign?

Connie: Wll The first campaign already passed. It was from February 21 through March 6, 2011. The second campaign is coming up and runs from March 22 through April 4 in the Northern Hemisphere and actually two days later in the southern hemisphere, that is March 24 through April 6.

Rob: And we will leave it as a homework problem for people to figure out the phases of the Moon and why we have those different dates.

Connie: Yeah!

Rob: Any Last words you would like to add?

Connie: Monitoring our environment will allow us as citizen-scientists to identify and preserve the dark sky oases in cities and locate areas where light pollution is increasing. All it takes is a few minutes during the 2-week campaign to measure your night sky brightness and contribute those observations on-line. Help us exceed the 17,800 observations contributed last year. And believe it or not, your measurements will make a world of difference.

Rob: Thanks, Connie. Now we have the obligatory credits: GLOBE at Night is hosted by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) in partnership with the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI), the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and Centro de Apoyo a la Didactica de la Astronomia (CADIAS) and the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program. NOAO is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc. (AURA), under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. And don’t forget you can find all the information you need at the GLOBE at Night website at www.globeatnight.org.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the Astrosphere New Media Association. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. Until tomorrow…goodbye.

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