City dwellers might not realize it, but they’re missing out on some great views… of the sky. Light pollution from sources like street lights and advertising marquees washes out all but the brightest of stars.
A new app just released for the Android OS, called “The Loss of the Night” is designed to find out exactly how bad the light pollution is. The app helps measure skyglow by learning which stars are visible or invisible to the naked eye at the user’s location.
According to Christopher Kyba of the Institute for Space Sciences at Freie Universität Berlin, it works like a game — it guides you to a certain star and asks if you can see it. Based on your response it then asks you for a new star that’s either brighter or darker.
In addition to helping scientists quantify the problem, there’s a benefit to the user. “People who use the app also find that they end up learning the names of stars and constellations that they didn’t know before,” said Kyba.
iPhone users, meanwhile, can also contribute. The Dark Sky Meter project, set up by Norbert Schmidt, Mario Hodzelmans, and Harro Treur, helps measure the sky directly using the iPhone camera, and there’s a lite version and a pro version to chose from.