Frequency of College Students' Night-Sky Watching Behaviors

Article excerpt

College students (N = 112) completed the Noctcaelador Inventory, a measure of psychological attachment to the night-sky, and estimated various night-sky watching related activities: frequency and duration of night-sky watching, astro-tourism, ownership of night-sky viewing equipment, and attendance of observatories or planetariums. The results indicated that a substantial percentage of the sample (62.5%) purposefully looked the night-sky at least once per week. An average of 19.6% indicated engaging in some form of astro-tourism, owning night-sky viewing equipment (i.e., telescopes), and attendance of planetariums or observatories. All variables were significantly related to scores on the Noctcaelador Inventory.

-----

For much of recorded history, many humans have watched the night-sky (Hawkins, 1983). While there is evidence suggesting that the night-sky has been deemed as important to various cultures historically (Brecher & Feirtag, 1979), little empirical study has attempted to determine whether this historical importance has been for a few select individuals, or a larger percentage of the population. Kelly (2003) cited evidence that over 700 Internet groups existed on one Internet search engine (Yahoo) devoted to amateur astronomy. However, determining the number of actual subscribers to these groups is difficult. Further there may be many individuals who engage in night-sky watching who are not a part of organized groups. As an attempt to study attitudes towards night-sky watching, Kelly (2003) conducted a study using a small sample of college students. Those findings suggesting that many individuals hold positive attitudes towards the night-sky and enjoyment in watching the night-sky. Apart from these limited findings little is known about the number of college students who actually engage in night-sky watching and the frequency of this behavior. This study was intended to partially fill this void by directly investigating self-reported night-sky watching frequency among college students.

METHOD

After obtaining informed consent, 112 (96 female) college students (M age = 26.8 years, SD = 7.7) enrolled in undergraduate psychology courses were asked to respond to questions reflecting the following content: 1) how often they typically make it a point to look at the night-sky (10 possible responses were provided ranging from "never" to "several times per night"); 2) the average length of time they look at the night-sky per viewing (16 possible responses were provided ranging from "fleeting glimpse" to "6-8 hours");" 3) engagement in astro-tourist activities (i.e., had they ever traveled away from their city of residence to engage in astronomy or stargazing activities); 4) ownership of night-sky viewing equipment, such as telescopes; 5) attendance of planetariums or observatories in the past five years. The latter three questions were responded to as "yes" or "no." Participants also completed the Noctcaelador Inventory (NI; Kelly, 2004), a psychometrically sound measure of interest in, and psychological attachment to, the night-sky.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The most frequent response to how often participants intentionally looked at the night-sky was "every two or three nights, " endorsed by 29.5 % of the sample. The next frequent response was "once a week" (15.2%). Additionally, 10.7% and 7.1% responded they viewed the night-sky "once a night" or "several times a night, " respectively. Only 3.6% indicated they never intentionally looked at the night-sky. Collapsing the categories indicated that 16.1% responded they looked at the night-sky "never" to "every 6 months;" 21.5% responded between "every two months" to "every 2 weeks;" and 62.5% indicated viewing the night-sky between "once a week" and "several times a night." Frequency of night-sky watching significantly correlated with scores on the NI, r = .58, p & .0001. To compare frequency of night-sky watching among individuals lower and higher in noctcaelador, a median split for NI scores was used to create high and low noctcaelador groups. …