The hunt is on this autumn to find Andromeda, one of our closest neighbouring galaxies.
As the nights draw in people are being asked to become ‘citizen scientists’ and use the galaxy, found in the constellation of a mythological princess, to measure the quality of the night skies in the South Downs National Park.
In Greek mythology Andromeda, the daughter of queen Casseopeia, was chained to a rock to be sacrificed to a sea monster as a punishment for her mother’s vanity, but saved by the hero Perseus. The South Downs National Park needs to know where and when the galaxy named after her is visible to the naked eye, as well as where the orange glow of light pollution blocks her from sight.
This will provide vital evidence about the quality of the South Downs’ night skies and whether it might be possible to gain Dark Sky status in the future.
Dan Oakley, South Downs National Park Ranger and keen amateur astronomer, said: “Perseus found Andromeda chained to a rock, but you should be able to spot her as a faint hazy galaxy within the Andromeda constellation to the top left of the square of Pegasus.
“Stargazers are being asked to let us know where in the National Park can spot her with the naked eye before the end of November.
“With the South Downs National Park sitting in the middle of the most populous part of the country most of us will be used to seeing the orange glow of light pollution and may not even realise the rich landscape of stars hidden above us. But there are still places in the South Downs where the night skies are dark enough to reveal an astonishing and glorious starscape.
“By taking part in our search for Andromeda you can help us measure the quality and area of these dark skies and look at how we can protect this precious and often unappreciated special quality of the South Downs.”
How to take part:
For the best results pick a night when the sky is clear with no haze or clouds, wait 30 minutes after the sun has gone down and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Choose an observation point with good all-sky visibility, away from any close bright lighting.
Look east to find the top left star of the square of Pegasus. The haze of the Andromeda Galaxy is to the left, above the line of three stars that make up the constellation of Andromeda.
Submit your results at www.surveymonkey.com/s/SDNPA-Andromeda stating:
If you could see the Andromeda Galaxy;
The date and time you looked;
The postcode/ location of where you were.
Find out more at www.southdowns.gov.uk/looking-after/dark-skies/get-involved