Educator Features

The Battle of Artificial Light vs. Starry Night
Viewed from above, the Earth at night is a vast sea of darkness interrupted by bright areas of artificial light. From a more familiar perspective -- looking up from the Earth's surface -- the amount of light in the night sky impacts our ability to see stars and other objects in space.

An image of the Earth's surface with bright light visible from the large cities
Image above: From space, large cities are rather easy to find by the artificial light they produce. Credit: NASA
How much artificial light, from streetlights and other man-made sources, is polluting the night sky and where? To answer that question, the GLOBE program is having a party -- a star-hunting party, that is -- and you're invited.

During March 22-29, 2006, students, teachers and families across the globe are invited to observe, record and report online the magnitude, or brightness, of visible stars. These measurements will help students and scientists determine how much light pollutes the night sky in various locations around the world.

Through this activity, students will learn about the usefulness of latitude and longitude in mapping and analyzing data. They will also have the opportunity to locate the Orion constellation using stellar maps.

Observations will be mapped at the GLOBE at Night Web site. This site includes detailed instructions on how to participate, tutorials on light pollution and finding Orion, and a list of national science, geography and math education standards addressed by the activity. The Web site will also provide access to all of the data collected to allow for further analysis.

GLOBE is an international student observation campaign sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation. Participants record measurements of the atmosphere, land, water, and plant and animal life for use by students and scientists worldwide.

GLOBE at Night Web site:
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Related Resources
Order the City Night Lights Poster
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Download the City Night Lights Poster
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Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies