By taking part in our Star Count you will be helping us to find out which part of the country has the darkest skies where the most stars can be seen. The results will help us highlight the problem of light pollution which is spoiling the natural beauty of the night sky.
Take part in Star Count 2013 – no telescope required
Please help us with the 2013 Star Count - our cosmic census. It’s easy to do, wonderful fun, and you need have no existing knowledge of the night sky – just the ability to count, and five minutes of spare time.
To join our 2013 Star Count, simply go out after dark any time between Friday 8 and Monday 18 February, and count the number of stars you can see within the four corner points of the Orion constellation – the great hunter. The easiest way to find Orion is to look in the southwest sky (the same direction that household satellite dishes face). You are looking for three bright stars close together in an almost-straight line. These three stars represent Orion's belt. The two bright stars to the north are his shoulders and the two to the south are his feet, you don’t need to count the corner points, just the stars you can see within them – see illustration.
Afterwards, please enter your survey results online. Seeing more than thirty stars within Orion means you’re lucky enough to have truly dark skies; fewer than ten indicates severe light pollution. You can submit a star count from anywhere in the UK or even another country although we will only plot the results from the UK on our map.
Please only submit one star count unless you are submitting other counts from different locations.
Tell us your star count and enter our prize draw
Once you have done your star count, make sure you come back to the website where you can submit your results. We'll be collecting all the star count results from across the country and publishing a star count map to show where the darkest skies were with the most visible stars. You'll also have the chance to win a fantastic telescope which will take you right up close to the planets in the solar system.
Win a fantastic telescope
The AstroMaster Series telescopes produce bright, clear images of the moon and planets. It is easy to see the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn with every one of these fine instruments. The lucky winner of our Star Count telescope prize, generously supplied by David Hinds Ltd, will be able to go on on a fascinating journey into astronomy from their home.
Even if you don't scoop the first prize, you can still be in with a chance to win one of ten runner-up prizes of the Stargazers' Almanac 2013 generously supplied by Floris Books, a beautiful month-by-month guide to the night skies. The guide is ideal for newcomers to star-gazing and helps you enjoy the night sky with the naked eye - without a telescope.
Star count 2013 - tell us your results
Astronomer Darren Baskill from the University of Sussex, explains why it is a problem and what can be done in this BBC slideshow.
Watch BBC slideshow: Dark sky stargazers
Star Count slideshow
Star count map 2012 (1MB JPG)