Isle youths to join global star hunt
The project invites students to measure light pollution's effect on the nighttime sky
Hawaii students can go star hunting in a worldwide program to assess the quality of the night sky.
Join the Search
Interested teachers, students and families can download activity packets from the GLOBE at Night Web site, www.globe.gov/GaN/index.html.
The "star-hunting" party is planned for Wednesday to March 29 as part of the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Program.
"This is an excellent activity that can be led by a classroom teacher or can be a family activity at home," said astronomer Richard Wainscoat at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.
He said the GLOBE at Night Program is appropriate for children from kindergarten to 12th grade and addresses many of the nation's educational standards, including science, mathematics and the environment.
Participants will observe and record the magnitude, or brightness, of visible stars as a way of measuring light pollution in a given location.
Wainscoat said children who participate in the GLOBE activity will be able to learn a little about astronomy and light pollution.
"Light pollution has grown slowly, and many people do not realize how severely it hinders their view of the night sky until they travel outside of their town to a place that has a very dark sky (such as the Big Island)," he said.
The UH and Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter, are supporting proposed legislation (House Bill 1835, HD 1) to reduce pollution of Hawaii's skies by requiring the state Transportation Department to use fully shielded lighting fixtures.
Maui and Hawaii County ordinances have stringent standards for lighting to protect observatories on Mauna Kea and Haleakala, the House Transportation Committee said in approving the bill.
Nonetheless, it said, "Light from airports and harbors, as well as light from Oahu, is threatening the ability of the observatories to study faint objects in the night sky."
The GLOBE Web site notes that outdoor lighting has increased with the population.
"Lights, contrast and glare all impact the number of stars that are visible in a given location," it says. "Only the brightest stars are visible when there is a lot of nighttime lighting."
Student observers in the GLOBE at Night Program will learn about latitude and longitude, how to locate the constellation Orion, recognize star patterns in the sky and report and analyze their observations, Wainscoat said.
"They will take part in a worldwide exercise and be able to see and compare their observations with observations taken by children all over the world."
The program is relevant to Hawaii students because some of the world's premier observatories are on the Big Island and Maui, Wainscoat pointed out.
Big Island students likely will record a darker sky than Oahu students because of the lighting ordinance that has protected astronomical research on Mauna Kea, he said.
Other sponsors of the week-long GLOBE at Night Program are the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Windows to the Universe, CADIAS (an astronomy teaching support center in La Serena, Chile) and ESRI, which makes geographic information system software and instructional materials.