Podcaster: Richard Drumm

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Title: UNAWE Space Scoop – Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars, How We Wonder WHERE You Are

Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy

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Description: Space scoop, news for children. 

A recent study by NOIRLab’s educational project ‘Globe at Night’, shows how light pollution is increasing fast, taking away the majestic view of our starry night sky.

Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.

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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

Today’s story is…

Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars, How We Wonder WHERE You Are

Have you ever wondered why fewer and fewer stars appear in the night sky, especially if you live in a city? 

A recent study by NOIRLab’s educational project ‘Globe at Night’, shows how light pollution is increasing fast, taking away the majestic view of our starry night sky.

Light pollution is a serious issue that has many harmful effects. 

For example, ‘skyglow’ is a form of light pollution where the night sky glows softly and is illuminated by the surrounding lights. 

White LEDs, neon signs and windows, even car headlights add to the skyglow. 

This fuzzy glow hides thousands of stars, constellations and even the glowing band of the Milky Way that human beings can otherwise see with their naked eye. 

Ancient human civilization has a rich history with this beautiful blanket of starry night sky. 

Many ancient cultures, mythical stories and gorgeous structures have direct links to objects and patterns in the night sky. 

Not only is light pollution bad news for astronomy, but studies show that it also affects human health and wildlife’s natural cycles.

A team of enthusiastic people interested in science joined forces with the scientists on the Globe at Night project to understand the scale of light pollution. 

Astronomer Connie Walker, who developed the project, and her team of citizen scientists started collecting data across the globe from 2006 on.

Anyone can submit observations using the Globe at Night app via their laptop or smartphones. 

On the app, participants first enter their date, time and location. 

Next, they match the patterns of stars they see in the sky to the ones shown on the star map and make a record of it. 

By doing so, scientists can measure how bright an object must be in order to be seen with the naked eye. 

This is known as the ‘naked eye limiting magnitude’. 

From this data, astronomers also found a new method to measure how bright the skyglow in a given location is and how it changes over time.

After studying more than 50,000 observations, the citizen-science based research found that the skyglow is increasing at a much faster rate in developing countries where observations by satellites showed skyglow was growing faster than it was in the developed areas of the USA and Europe.

An increase of 9.6% per year in the past decade! 

This shows the importance of finding new ways to save our dark skies and encouraging the people of the world to get involved in protecting the starry night sky. 

The Globe at Night project is a perfect example of what citizen-science based research can contribute.

Hey, here’s a cool fact!

Researchers think that if the skyglow brightness increases at today’s rate, children, born in places where 250 stars should be visible, will only see 100 by the time they turn 18 years old. 

Eventually all the stars will disappear!

That’s just sad. I like to end with a light note, something funny. 

But I got nothing.

[Sigh] Anyway…

365 Days of Astronomy

The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Planetary Science Institute. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. 

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After 10 years, the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast is entering its second decade of sharing important milestone in space exploration and astronomy discoveries. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!