The importance of night

Welcome to the Star Path! 

Here you will find information and discovery points on the value of darkness in the Wilderness Area, on the nocturnal life of wild animals, and the importance of celestial bodies for orientation. 

What would the night be like if there were no street lamps and illuminated buildings? Hard for us to imagine. However, only about 100 years ago there was a spectacular starry sky all over the world. 

Our nights are getting lighter and the light that many of us humans produce radiates into the sky. We call it light pollution. This not only affects our human health, but it also causes problems for nocturnal animals and plants. 

Here in Lieberose Wilderness Area there is hardly any infrastructure and therefore very little light pollution. This makes the Wilderness Area a haven for nocturnal animals such as wolves, bats, and owls. 

And we humans can also experience the original darkness here with its unique starry sky. 

Frau entdeckt Exponat am Sternenpfad

Where is the night still dark? 

The places with high light pollution can be seen as bright spots on the map. 

Can you find Lieberose Wilderness Area? 


Orientation at night 

We humans are often anxious and cautious in the dark. No wonder, because our senses are made for daylight activities. However, the situation is quite different for some animals that live in the wild. 

The masters of the night are bats. They have a sophisticated echolocation system. They constantly emit ultrasonic waves into their environment. 

Everything that stands or flies in front of them reflects these waves. The bats catch these reflections. 

They use the time lapse to calculate the distance, something movement, and its speed. 

Owls, such as Tengmalm’s Owl, have very large eyes; they are particularly sensitive to light and therefore perfectly adapted to the conditions at night. But its ears also help the Tengmalm’s Owl in the dark. Its face feathers pick up all sounds of the environment, so it also locates its prey acoustically. 

Take a look through the eyes of animals! 

What distinguishes the eyesight of the different night dwellers? 

Deer see in the dark 100 times better than humans. 

Their eyes are on the side of their heads, giving them a larger field of vision. In addition, their pupils opening significantly wider than ours. 

This allows much more light to reach the retina and improves vision in the dark. 

The wolf is also made for the dark. Its forward-looking eyes enable it to see well in three dimensions and to more effectively process the little remaining light at dusk. Its very good sense of smell also helps it find its way around at night. 


Light as a clock 

Despite the constant availability of artificial lighting, light and darkness have a decisive influence on our psyche, relaxation, and capabilities. Only in the dark does the body produce melatonin, which we need to fall asleep. 

Light has always been the most important clock for animals and plants. The requirements and active phases are very different. During the course of the year, the active phases shift and change depending on the time of sunrise and sunset. 

Who is active when? 

At this discovery point we present five animals and their nocturnal activities. Spin the wheel and you can see when each animal opens or closes its eyes. 

Can you solve the riddles and match the descriptions to the respective animals? 

I really wake up at dusk. I smell my favourite food and I am on my way. When my prey goes back to sleep, I also retire and rest. But even during the day I like to see what is going on in my territory. 

Because I have spent most of my life as a larva in the ground, I am used to the dark. I become active at night and explore the area around my favourite tree. If you are lucky, you can also find me here during the day. 

I am a real sleepyhead during the day. I either have it nice and dark and cosy in my tree hole, or I snuggle up against a tree trunk in the dense forest. Some of my relatives are also active during the day, which I find quite strange. The mice only taste best to me when it is completely dark. I always know where they are because I can hear them very well. 

When evening comes, I feel refreshed and wander around in search of the best food. But I also like to set off during the day when I feel safe and undisturbed. 

Nobody will see me during the day, it is much too hot and exhausting for me in the daylight. Only when it gets dark in the evening do I set off and fly on my rounds through the forest. I especially like to fly over the lake – there are lots of insects to eat here. 


A Wolf 

B Stag beetle 

C Tengmalm’s owl 

D Red deer 

E Barbastelle bat 


Orientation to celestial bodies 

Just as light rules the natural rhythm of living creatures, it also affects their orientation. Natural phenomena such as celestial bodies, magnetic fields, smells, and sound ensure that many animals can find their way around in the dark. The inner compass 

Migratory birds such as geese, cranes, and many songbirds have a very special sense. The so-called “magnetic sense” enables them to orient themselves using the Earth’s magnetic field, which also works very well at night. This inner compass registers the strength and orientation of the magnetic field. For example, it allows the Arctic tern to cover a distance of around 20 000 kilometres from its breeding grounds in Greenland and Alaska to its winter quarters in the Antarctic. 

Light as a trap 

Often we humans unintentionally create barriers and distractions that can mislead animals. An example is the night lighting of our streets, houses, and sometimes even gardens, which attracts countless insects into a trap every night. 

Moths and other nocturnal fliers orientate themselves using the Moon, which they cannot distinguish from an artificial light source. Lured by this, they lose their bearings and often their lives. 

Too much light at night not only throws animals and plants out of their natural rhythm, in the long run it can also make us humans ill as well. 

Animal-friendly light 

We can use simple means to help reduce this „light pollution“ in our environment and at the same time save money and energy: lights should be as energy-efficient as possible and only used for a limited period of time where it is necessary for safety. 

They should shine down onto the pavement or doorway and avoid illuminating the night sky as much as possible. A warm, light colour is favourable, with as little ultraviolet and blue content as possible. This is less similar to moonlight and is therefore less attractive to nocturnal animals 


  • only use as much light as necessary
  • avoid far scattering light
  • use motion detectors
  • replace cold white light 


Of sailors and astrologers 

Stargazing played a very important role in our past. The stars offered approximate orientation to the first seafarers. 

For example, the further south the observer is, the further north the Pole Star is located in the night sky. 

Even Neolithic cave paintings indicate that stars have fired people’s imaginations for a very long time. In the arrangement of the stars, people thought they recognized patterns that they assigned to animals, mythical figures, or objects. These so-called constellations were recorded in star charts. 

A well-known example is the constellation the Great Bear (Ursa Major), which includes seven particularly bright stars. If you extend an imaginary connecting line between the two stars at the base of the Great Bear, you will meet the Pole Star, which lies in the constellation of the Little Bear. 

The northern night sky 

You can see how the sky will look at this point at 10 pm if you set the appropriate date on our star map. The lower part of the map shows you looking north. From there, the map extends like a dome across the night sky. The centre of the map is directly above your head. 

Finding stars is easy 

The rotating cosmos star map shows the currently visible night sky. Briefly, here is the most important thing about operating it. 

The star map has a rotatable horizon mask with which you can adjust the visible section of the night sky. Since the Earth rotates on its axis once a day and moves around the Sun once a year, the date and time determine which part of the night sky we can see at the moment.

How to set up the card 

Rotate the cover so the current time (white scale) points to the current date (yellow scale). During summer time, use the inner time scale. The transparent section in the cover page then shows the night sky that is currently visible (here, 5th February at 0:30 a.m.).

How to hold the card correctly 

When the map is set for the desired time, you no longer need to rotate the horizon mask in relation to the actual star map. Instead, hold the entire star chart in front of you like a mirror to compare the stars and constellations in the visible part of the sky with the stars and constellations in the night sky. Which part of the star map is pointing up and which is pointing down depends on the direction in which you are looking at the sky. If you are looking south, you must hold the star map in such a way that the southern horizon is at the bottom and you can easily read the word ‘‘South’’; accordingly, when looking west, the western horizon must be oriented downwards, or when looking northeast, the NE horizon must be oriented downwards. The following four figures show how to use it: 

South Looking south 

West Looking west 

North Looking north 

East Looking east 


Adler  Aquila 
Andromeda  Andromeda 
Becher  Crater 
Bildhauer  Sculptor 
Chem. Ofen  Fornax 
Delfin  Delphinus 
Drache  Draco 
Dreieck  Triangulum 
Eidechse  Lacerta 
Einhorn  Monoceros 
Eridanus  Eridanus 
Fische  Pisces 
Füchschen  Vulpecula 
Füllen  Equuleus 
Fuhrmann  Auriga 
Giraffe  Camelopardalis 
Kamelopard  Camelopardalis 
Gr. Bär  Great Bear 
Gr. Hund  Canis Major 
Haar der Berenike  Coma Berenices 
Hase  Lepus 
Herkules  Hercules 
Hinterdeck  Puppis 
Jagdhunde  Canes Venatici 
Jungfrau  Virgo 
Kassiopeia  Cassiopeia 
Kepheus  Cepheus 
Kl. Bär  Little Bear 
Kl. Hund  Canis Minor 
Kl. Löwe  Leo Minor 
Kompass  Pyxis 
Kranich  Grus 
Krebs  Cancer 
Krone  Corona Borealis 
Leier  Lyra 
Löwe  Leo 
Luchs  Lynx 
Luftpumpe  Antlia 
Mikroskop  Microscopium 
Orion  Orion 
Pegasus  Pegasus 
Perseus  Perseus 
Pfeil  Sagitta 
Rabe  Corvus 
Rinderhirte  Boötes 
Schild  Scutum 
Schlange  Serpens 
Schlangenträger  Ophiuchus 
Schütze   Sagittarius 
Schwan  Cygnus 
Sextant  Sextans 
Skorpion  Scorpio 
Steinbok  Capricorn 
Stier  Taurus 
Südl. Fisch  Piscis Austrinus 
Südl. Krone  Corona Australis 
Taube  Columba 
Teleskop  Telescopium 
Waage  Libra 
Walfisch  Cetus 
Wassermann  Aquarius 
Wasserschlange  Hydra 
Widder  Aries 
Wolf  Lupus 
Zentaur  Centaur 




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