Our most casual glances at the stars in the night sky this week can be meaningful beyond personal experience if we take a few minutes to participate in the "Globe at Night" initiative as citizen observers.

Adults and children around the world are looking up to count the number of stars visible in and near a prominent constellation seen from their neighborhoods. In our region, we'd choose Orion the Hunter or Leo the Lion.

Concern is mounting about how excessive artificial light at night (light pollution) affects human health, creates a barrier to seeing the stars, and threatens the survival of wildlife.

Air and water pollution, once disregarded, are established threats. Light pollution is now receiving scrutiny in medical, environmental and astronomical circles. "Globe at Night" surveys provide information that will help scientists and citizens learn more about levels of light at night worldwide as well as identify dark sky areas on our planet.

Reporting dates in the current cycle begin this Sunday, and go through April 11. There will be one additional period: April 29 to May 8. During both intervals the moon will be waning (decreasing in size) and present only after midnight, allowing for as dark a sky as possible for nighttime stargazing.

Start with Orion the Hunter, which is in the southwest at nightfall, located between brilliant planet Jupiter, right, and bright star Sirius, left. Orion is best known by three stars in a row that represent his belt.


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For reporting, best viewing will be between 9 and 10 p.m. Learn more at www.globeatnight.org,

To contact Judy Isacoff, go to www.naturesturn.org