PEOPLE across Hampshire are being urged to study the sky at night as part of a project to find out whether light pollution is getting worse.

Star Count 2014 was launched today with organisers calling on everyone to count the number of stars they can see at night with the naked eye.

The count, which runs until Saturday March 8, is part of an annual cosmic census aimed at tackling light pollution.

It is organised by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and the British Astronomical Association’s Campaign for Dark Skies, in partnership with National Astronomy Week.

Twinkling stars in a dark sky at night are considered an essential part of the character of the countryside and CPRE is hoping for an improvement on last year’s results.

With 56 per cent of people in the South East able to spot fewer than ten stars the countryside campaigners fear there is severe light pollution in the region.

Emma Marrington, the CPRE’s dark skies campaigner, said: “The survey can help us build a picture of how light pollution is affecting views in the south east.

“We’ll use the results 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.

“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.”

To take part people need to spend a few minutes counting the stars in the Orion constellation on any evening from today until Saturday, March 8 and record the results on the CPRE’s website, Everyone who takes part will be entered into a prize draw to win a £205 Celestron AstroMaster telescope.