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UG, Forum Groningen and northern residents to measure darkness together

Data will be used to draw up a darkness map of the Northern Netherlands
28 January 2021
Starry skies

This February and March, CurioUs?, an initiative of Science LinX (University of Groningen), Forum Groningen and the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health, will be organizing a measuring event to measure darkness together with residents of the North. Everyone can join in by counting the stars in the Orion constellation. All these measurements will be used to draw up a darkness map of the Northern Netherlands. Darkness belongs to us all and is important everywhere. The initiators hope that this event will make people aware of how important it is to protect the night skies. In addition, it may encourage us all to look up to the stars more often and teach us to recognize constellations.


Nocturnal darkness is a ‘prime quality’ of life and is important to both humans and nature. Research conducted at the University of Groningen (UG) and elsewhere indicates that the loss of darkness due to excessive use of artificial light has negative consequences for humans, flora and fauna. So, how dark does it really get at night nowadays? The UG has set up a darkness measuring network as part of the Donkerte van de Wadden [Darkness of the Wadden area] programme. As it is difficult to measure darkness everywhere, the UG is calling on citizens to help.


The winter constellation Orion will take centre stage in the measuring event. Everyone can participate, simply by counting the stars in this easily recognizable constellation. Here’s what you should do: go outside and look for the Orion constellation. Give your eyes about 15 minutes to get used to the darkness. Now, count how many stars you can see in the constellation. If you are a perfectionist, feel free to recount several times and report the average of your counts. Report your results via the CurioUs? webpage, where all measuring data will be shown on an interactive map. The idea is to repeat this measuring action every year to create an overview of darkness together with residents of the Northern Netherlands.


Measurements must be taken in the periods between 1 and 15 February and 1 and 15 March to accommodate for the position of the moon, a natural but disturbing source of light. The measurements should be taken when the moon is below the horizon and, needless to say, when the sky is clear.

About CurioUs?

CurioUs? is an initiative of the UG, Forum Groningen and the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health that aims to promote citizen science by organizing measuring events and activities such as walk-ins, workshops and lectures. In addition to these events and activities, citizens can borrow measuring equipment from the Meet-o-theek at the Forum Groningen Smartlab to make their own contributions to a variety of measuring events. The current measuring event, revolving around the theme of light pollution, is the second measuring event organized by the initiators. The first one, entitled Onze Lucht [Our air], is still in full swing and aims to measure fine particles. Two more measuring events will follow later this year.

Last modified:03 February 2021 2.18 p.m.
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