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Skyglow Berlin

Skyglow Berlin is a citizen science project in which school students from Berlin and Brandenburg measure the brighness of the night sky. The project was completely funded through private contributions via, the German crowdfunding platform for scientific projects. Updates on the status of the project are occasionally posted on the project blog.

Skyglow Berlin Funders

Project funding for Skyglow Berlin was generously provided by the following supporters:

Andreas Kollmann,
Andreas Linnömann,
Antje Böhme,
Antonia Rötger,
Dr. Armin Huerüand,
Arnold Müller,
Astronomische Gesellschaft,
Beate Langholf,
Britta Eisenbarth,
Carolin Schwerdt,
Carsten Klinger,
Christian Reinboth,
Christopher Kyba,
Dr. Danielle Hoja,
Dietrich Wanke,
Elizabeth von Hauff,
Eugene Beier,
Franz Neumüller,
Giles McCormick Smith,
Gregor Erbach,
Gunnar Glitscher,
Guy Dagne,
Harald Bardenhagen,
Henrike Charlet,
Holger Thorsten Dittmann,
Dr. Holger Voss,
Jan Hattenbach,
The International Dark-Sky Association
Jeff Mottershead,
Jeff Stollery,
Johanna Kuhnert,
Josiane Meier
Julian C,
Karin Jende-Schimming,
Karola Rockmann,
Konrad Jende,
Lutz Volkmann,
Marc Otto,
Marcel Braune,
Markus Demleitner,
Markus Pössel,
Michael Lüdtke,
Michael Ranzau,
Peter Sikabonyi,
Petra Schramm,
Ralph Schäfermeier,
Reiner Staske,
Reinhold Roppert,
Sandra Beck,
Silvan Heintze,
Stefan Hümmerich,
Stephan Mertens,
Thomas Rattei,
Thorsten Witt,
Timo Sieber,
Volkher Kassner

Additional financing came from 40 other sponsors who chose to contribute anonymously.

Original Skyglow Berlin Proposal

Lighting the night is one of the most dramatic changes that humans have made to the Earth. With the help of school students and some of our project backers, we will quantify the brightness of the sky in Berlin and Brandenburg. The results of this project will be extremely useful for testing simulations of the sky brightness worldwide.

What's the project about?

During the time when life evolved, the sky was bright with stars on clear nights and very dark on cloudy nights. Now, thanks to waste light from our cities, the sky is often too bright to see the stars, and cloudy nights are up to thousands of times brighter than is natural. The goal of the Skyglow Berlin project is to quantify the brightness of the sky in the city of Berlin and the state of Brandenburg.

Dark nights are necessary for many animals. They use darkness to protect themselves from predators, for example mice hiding from owls. Many animals also make use of lunar cycles. If natural darkness is lost, ecosystems are affected. Too much light at night or light exposure at the wrong times can even make animals, including humans, unwell (think of how you are affected by jetlag). The size of the effect on ecosystems is not well understood, because we don't have good models for how bright the night sky is, particularly on cloudy nights.

The data obtained in this project will eventually be used to calibrate computer programs that simulate the sky brightness for the entire Earth. Berlin is an ideal place to do these measurements, because we can study the effects of a single bright city without having to worry about other nearby cities spoiling the results. In places like the Netherlands or the East coast of the USA, you can never get away from the skyglow.

The project works by providing Gymnasium students (and a limited number of project supporters) with light meters that can accurately measure the brightness of the sky, as well as how many stars are visible. We hope that by getting students to go outside during the night, they will gain experience with the natural night that was a part of growing up just a few generations ago. With luck, this chance to experience the night might encourage some of them to become lighting designers, astronomers, or nocturnal animal researchers.

Participation by project backers

We will use a lottery to select a limited number of the project financers who will also receive a light meter and instructions on how to take part in the project. The more you contribute, the higher your chances are of being selected as a project participant. This project is all about getting citizens to participate in science, and we thought that many of our supporters would like the chance to take part as well. This will also provide us with valuable measurements in other parts of Germany. A minimum of 4 project financers will be selected, but more will be selected if the project is financed past the €5000 level.

What are the goals, and what are the target groups?

The project has three goals and several target groups.

The scientific goals of the project are to accurately measure the brightness of the night sky in Berlin and Brandenburg, and to measure how many stars can be seen at different locations in Berlin and Brandenburg.

The educational goal of the project is for students to gain experience performing scientific fieldwork, to reduce their fear of the dark, and to positively experience the nighttime environment.

The social goal of the project is to educate students and their families about the poorly designed lighting that is the primary cause of light pollution.

The main target groups of the project are scientists that study light pollution and the students that will perform the measurements. The data from this project will be made freely available online for light pollution researchers around the world.

Many other groups are likely to be interested in the project and its results, for example amateur astronomers and occasional stargazers, teachers, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Why should I support the project?

Skyglow Berlin is a low-cost high-impact project. For a relatively small infrastructure investment, hundreds of students will be able to participate in a citizen science project that generates important data. Since the devices used to measure the sky brightness are robust, they can be used by students in the schools for years to come.

Poorly designed lighting results in wasted CO2 emissions, wasted money, and a degraded environment. The students involved in this project will grow into engaged and informed citizens with the knowledge and motivation to improve lighting in Germany.

By supporting this project you will also have a chance to take part in it! As described above and in our "Thank You's" below, we will send a limited number of sky brightness meters to randomly selected project supporters, along with detailed instructions describing how to take part. The more you donate, the better your chances of being selected will be, and at certain levels we'll also thank you by signing you up for an online magazine subscription, sending you a holographic postcard, or a poster of Berlin.

What will you do with the money if the project is financed?

The primary cost of the project is the light meters that are used to measure the sky brightness. Students will also be able to use our newly developed android app to concurrently measure the number of stars visible on their personal smartphone.

Because the main cost of the project is the lightmeters, the grant is very modular. As long as we reach our basic goal of €5000, the project will be funded. Since the price per unit for the light meters decreases with increasing purchase size, additional financing dramatically affects the number of meters we can buy. This is important, because the more units we have, the more locations the students will be able to sample.

The exact number of meters that we can buy will depend on the final funding amount and the exchange rate when we buy the lightmeters. In order to give you an idea of how this works, we've listed how the money would be spent at three different funding levels:

Level 1 (5000 Euro)
4 Schools
4 Permanently installed lightmeters
20 Handheld lightmeters (~4 per school)
Travel costs to 1 school in Brandenburg
Materials for students
camera for documenting poor and excellent lighting

Level 2 (10000 Euro)
5 Schools
5 Permanently installed lightmeters
50 Handheld lightmeters (~8 per school)
Travel to 2 schools in Brandenburg
Materials for students
camera for documenting poor and excellent lighting
publication fee for an open access journal

Level 3 (16000 Euro)
6+ Schools
10 Permanently installed lightmeters
100 Handheld lightmeters (>10 per school)
Travel to 4 schools in Brandenburg
Materials for students
camera for documenting poor and excellent lighting
publication fee for an open access journal

Who is behind the project?

Christopher Kyba

I am a Canadian physicist, and I've been living in Berlin for four years. I grew up watching stars, satellites, and meteor showers in my backyard in Alberta, and I knew about light pollution as a child because the skyglow from Edmonton blocked our view of the Northern skies. Sadly, due mainly to new poorly designed lighting installations, the Milky Way is no longer visible from the location where I grew up, despite the fact that the town has only about 10,000 residents.
I did a PhD and postdoc in Philadelphia, where the skies were so polluted that even the big dipper was not visible on my commute home at night (thankfully at most locations in Berlin we can still see hundreds of stars). In Philly I worked in particle physics and radiology, and in both cases my research focus was detecting small amounts of light with sensitive detectors. Now I work at the Freie Universität Berlin, where I'm one of the first people in the world to study light pollution full time.
I love communicating my research topic to the public (and other academics), and you can see a presentation of my research at a science slam. I am very interested in citizen science, and I have a paper coming out soon that demonstrates the immense value of citizen observations like those that are proposed in the Berlin Skyglow project.
I have two children (aged 5 and 2), and I'm working hard to make sure they have opportunities to experience the wonders of the night sky as they grow up (they visited my institute to try to see comet Pan-STARRS on one night in early March, and we will go stargazing in Alberta this summer).

Annette Krop-Benesch

[NOTE: This part is a Google translation, sorry...] I grew up outdoors, and animals and nature have always been an important part of my life. That's why I became a biologist. Still studying my fascination for the creatures of the night, and the question of how animals know when it's time to sleep. For the last ten years, I have explored the interior clock in humans and animals, and what role light plays in the daily and annual rhythms.

Since I live in Berlin, I know how much I enjoyed the dark nights in the country. I sleep better in dark places than in bright Berlin, and if I can wake up with the light of dawn instead of in a shuttered room, that's a good start to the day.

Night walks under the stars used to be normal for me. It was as a student that I first realized that many people are not used to seeing the Milky Way at night. Today the Milky Way is no longer visible at my parents house - it has become too bright. Many students with whom I speak have never seen the Milky Way.

With my work I want to show people how beautiful and valuable the natural night is. The sight of the stars is one of the most precious treasures of mankind, and just as worthy of preservation as the savannahs and rain forests of our planet. We can get this back without compromising on quality of life. Our project is a small but important step in this direction!

Verlust der Nacht Both of us are members of the interdisciplinary Verlust der Nacht research project of the BMBF. Verlust der Nacht studies the effects of artificial light on biology, ecology, and society. The project also works on quantification of lighting and producing improved lighting concepts. You can read about the project here.

Thank you's:

5 Euro: You get one entry in our draws to select which project supporters take part in the actual measurements

10 Euro: You get two entries in the draws, and we list your name on the project website.

20 Euro: You get 5 entries in the draws, and we put your name and a link to your website on our project website.

30 Euro: You get the above benefits plus a one year electronic subscription to "Nightscape", the award winning quarterly publication of the International Dark Sky Association.

50 Euro: You get 15 draw entries, all of the above, plus we mail you a holographic postcard that switches between Europe by day and Europe by night.

75 Euro: You get 20 draw entries, the above benefits, plus you can come to our lab and pick up an A0 sized poster of Berlin at night.

100 Euro: Same as above, but we will mail the poster to you if you live in Germany.

200 Euro: Instead of being included in a draw, we automatically select you as one of the participating project members.

200 Euro: If more than one person donate at this level, only the first two will automatically get to be a participating project member. If you select this thank you, you will have 50 entries in the draw.

500 Euro: You get to be a participating project member, and we acknowledge your contribution when we publish a paper on the results.

500 Euro: If more than one person donate at this level, only the first two will automatically get to be a participating project member. If you select this thank you, you will have 150 entries in the draw.

1000 Euro: You get everything listed so far, plus, if you come to Berlin we will give you a tour of our lab.

5000 Euro: You get all of the above, plus if you like you can choose any school in Germany or Austria to take part, and Christopher Kyba will come there and prform a science slam style talk for the school or your company/organization.

How to register as a fan

Under my facebook video click on "Fan werden". Then either "connect with facebook", or else create an account on

To create an account click "Jetzt registrieren", and then:
Vorname = first name
Nachname = last name
Benutzername = username
Email & Email again...
Password & Password again...
Proof you're human

Then click "Speichern und Registrierung abschliessen" (save and exit registration).

How to contribute to the project

The first step is to click here to go to the project page, which is all in German:

To the right of the video there is a button "ICH MÖCHTE...". Click the triangle next to it and choose either:

Frei unterstützen = freely contribute
Dankeschö(s) = choose a thank you gift (from the list) - For simplicity I assume you're not doing this below.

Then type in an amount (in Euro) that you'd like to donate and when you're ready click "Projekt jetzt unterstützen.

Okay, here we go!

1) Check your contribution amount

Here it lists your contribution, then whether you would like to also contribute something to "Sciencefonds". This is a pool of money that's used to support user-chosen projects at the end of each year. Adjust the slider to the amount you would like to contribute (if any).

2) Login or contribute as a guest

I am going to assume that English users want to contribute as a guest. If this is the case, click "Ich bin neu hier", which says "I'm new and I want to register now or proceed without an account".

Then, if you don't want to create a user account unclick the box "Ich möchte mit diesen Daten..." (I want to use this data to create a user account and agree to my data being saved.)

A box will pop up with the title "CROWDFUNDING LEBT VON DER COMMUNITY". Click on the "x" to close it (they would really love you to create an account).

Then fill in the following information: Vorname = first name
Nachname = last name
Email & Email again...

3) Choose payment method

I am going to assume that you will do it with a credit card or PayPal. Click the button next to PayPal.

4) Send a comment if you like. English is fine :-)

5) Further options - click the box if you want to be anonymous and not listed as a supporter on the main page. If you click the box a yellow section will pop up above that says "posting comments is not possibly by anonymous users"

6) Summary

Total amount of your contribution is listed at the right of the black box.

The next few lines say:

"including tax, handling, donation to Sciencefonds, and any coupons you had."
"You're paying with PayPal. After you click below you will go to PayPal to finish the transaction
Advice: Sciencestarter is a platform from Startnext, therefore Startnext Crowdfunding gUG takes over handling the transaction."

Click on "Hiermit bestätige ich..." (I agree to the terms and conditions of Sciencestarter).

Now click "Unterstützung ausführen".

At PayPal

At the top right of the page there are two choices:

Sie haben bereits ein PayPal-Konto = "I already have a PayPal account"
Mit Lastschrift oder Kreditkarte = "Pay with credit card"

If you already have a PayPal account, you can try that one, but since I don't, I can't give you instructions. It will hopefully switch automatically to your local language

If you click on "Mit Lastschrift oder Kreditkarte" then you need to select your country using "Land"

Note that since the default language is German, Canada will be listed as "Kanada" (UK is "Großbritannien", USA is "USA").

Change your country using "Land"
Now everything should switch to English!

If anything doesn't work, then please take a screenshot of the page, mail it to me, and I'll get back to you!
Thank you so much for your support!