Star Count 2022 Results: Severe Light Pollution Continues to Fall


17th May 2022

A significant reduction in severe light pollution levels, first recorded during lockdown last year, has continued, according to the results of a nationwide star count. Despite lockdown being well and truly behind us there does not appear to have been a corresponding increase in light levels from outdoor and street lighting. 

The ‘lockdown legacy’ of working from home and rising energy prices has created an opportunity to permanently improve our view of the night sky. Office-based organisations switching to permanent home working, coupled with employers’ desire to reduce electricity bills, appear to have led to fewer lights being left on overnight. This, alongside households being more conscious about wasting energy and councils reducing street lighting and switching to better lighting design, are believed to be behind the continued reduction in light pollution. 

Over 2,500 people took part in the annual Star Count, the country’s biggest citizen science project of its kind, between February 26 and March 6. Participants were asked to report the number of stars they could see in the Orion constellation. The results show severe light pollution, defined as being able to see ten or fewer stars with the naked eye, has continued to fall. After peaking in 2020, when 61% of participants reported seeing ten stars or less, severe light pollution fell to 51% in 2021 and continued its slide this year, to 49%. 

A clear view of a star-filled night sky has a hugely beneficial effect on our mental health and, like access to other forms of nature, helps reduce stress and increase a sense of peace and wellbeing. Research has even shown that regularly spending time looking at the stars can lower blood pressure and reduce depression. Yet, the night sky, which is a hugely significant part of our natural environment, has no legal protection. 

Turning off garden lights when not needed, dimming street lights and reducing office lighting could permanently reduce carbon emissions and cut energy bills while improving the natural environment for wildlife and human health. Other solutions that could reduce both light pollution and energy use include councils investing in well-designed lighting, used only where and when needed. They can also adopt policies in local plans to reduce light pollution and protect and enhance existing dark skies in their areas.