‘CITIZEN Scientists’ in Bucks are being asked to join up with a cosmic census to help an environmental organisation battle light pollution.

Dark, star-filled skies are an essential part of the character of rural England, says the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Last year, however, 56 per cent of people who did the CPRE’s Star Count survey in the South East were able to spot fewer than ten stars, indicating severe light pollution in the region.

Countryside campaigners CPRE, and the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies, in partnership with National Astronomy Week, are again asking stargazers to count the number of stars they can see with the naked eye in the constellation of Orion any night from today, Wednesday February 26, to Saturday, March 8.

Everyone who joins in will have the chance to win a telescope through which you can see the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn.

Emma Marrington, CPRE Dark Skies Campaigner, said: "The Star Count survey can help us build a picture of how light pollution is affecting views of the night sky in the South East of England.

"We’ll use the results that local people submit to persuade Ministers and local councils to reduce light pollution. This will also help cut carbon emissions and save money through streetlight switch-off or dimming schemes and low energy lighting. "If we’re to reclaim our wondrous night skies, we need all councils to take action."

"Light pollution may not seem the most serious environmental threat, but it can ruin the countryside’s tranquil character, blur the distinction between town and country, affect wildlife and deny us the experience of a truly deep, dark and starry sky. We must act now to make a difference, and our Star Count really helps us gather the evidence we need."

To complete your Star Count, spend a couple of minutes counting the stars you can see in the Orion constellation, on any evening between tonight and Saturday March 8.

You can then report your count on CPRE’s website and enter the prize draw to win a Celestron AstroMaster telescope or some runners up will receive a copy of Paul Bogard’s star-gazing book ‘The End of Night’.

For more information go to www.cpre.org.uk/starcount