Did you participate in this year’s Great World Wide Star Count event (between October 20 and November 3, 2008)? It was an opportunity to join with thousands of other star enthusiasts to observe the stars, record your results, and then add your count to the global community’s.

Together with other observers, thousands helped map out the visibility of particular constellations, with the aim of comparing what people in different regions are able to see. From year to year, as we compare different event’s data, we’ll be able to better understand the role of light pollution and how it’s affecting the average star gazer.

This year, people were asked to observe the constellation Cygnus (in the Northern Hemisphere) and Sagittarius (in the Southern Hemisphere). Participants were free to view the constellations from their own homes or from more remote locations. Either way, as long as they properly reported their location, it will help paint a picture of what’s visible in today’s night sky.

Observers also had a chance to learn about the geographic and economic factors affected by sky glow and what they can do about it. I’m sure there was plenty of discussion about dark sky initiatives around the world.

Last year, 6,624 people participated—although there are no reports yet of participant numbers for 2008, the expectation was that they would be double what they were last year. If you didn’t have a chance to participate this year, don’t fear! This is an annual event, and next year will prove to be even more exciting than this year since 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy. Next year’s event will be part of a "cornerstone project" promoting interest in astronomy initiated by the International Astronomical Union and the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).