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Stargazing index focuses on optimal night sky viewing

By Li Menghan and Du Juan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-20 10:10
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Aspiring astronomers in Beijing now have a new tool to help them better enjoy the night skies.

The Beijing Meteorological Service Center has launched its first stargazing index forecast, offering a convenient tool for skywatchers.

"This initiative reflects our commitment to using AI in weather forecasting," said You Huanling, chief meteorological service officer at the center. "Stargazing provides a welcome escape from daily life and is becoming an increasingly popular reason for suburban getaways."

The new service, launched earlier this month, provides a three-day forecast with information on star visibility, recommended observation sites, and clothing and travel tips.

"Ideal viewing times are between 8 pm and 3 am," You explained. "The forecast considers cloud cover, atmospheric clarity, light pollution and astronomical viewing — the clarity of celestial objects due to atmospheric conditions."

She added that typically, the best areas to view stars around the capital are in its northern and western suburbs.

The stargazing index is a five-tier rating system, with 4- and 5-star ratings indicating the best viewing conditions. A 5-star rating signifies a clear sky with excellent visibility of a vast array of stars.

Seasoned stargazer Wang Junling is enthusiastic about the new service.

"It's wonderful to see this niche hobby gaining mainstream popularity, especially with the support of such services," he said.

Wang has noticed a positive change in Beijing's environment, with clearer skies making stargazing possible even in large urban parks.

"Previously, stargazing relied heavily on experience and guesswork," he said. "This service offers a scientific approach, enhancing success rates and attracting new enthusiasts."

The Beijing Meteorological Service Center plans to collaborate with district-level tourism bureaus to recommend safe and suitable stargazing locations.

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