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Archive for the ‘Stars’ Category

Seven Best National Trust Sites for Star Gazing

 

If you are looking for a great spot to see the shooting stars of the Perseids  away from bright lights and light pollution, there are some very good National Trust sites you can go to in the UK.

These sites are ideal for all kinds of stargazing any time of the year and are set in some of the most beautiful locations in the country

The seven best National Trust sites for star gazing and see the wonders of the night sky are:

 

  • Black Down in Sussex – Get closer to the stars on the highest point in the South Downs, just over a mile from the town of Haslemere.

 

Download the guide for Black Down

  • Teign Valley in Devon – Discover the stars at this Trust property within Dartmoor National Park and close to Castle Drogo.

 Download the guide for Teign Valley

  • Penbryn Beach in Wales – Beautiful, unspoilt mile-long beach on the Ceredigion coast in west Wales, great for a bit of star gazing and a late night paddle.

 Download the guide for Penbryn Beach

  • Stonehenge Landscape in Wiltshire – Step back in time and discover the ancient skies of Salisbury Plain’s chalk downlands, home to the impressive prehistoric stone monument.

 Download the guide for Stonehenge Landscape

  • Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire – Close to historic Ely, the wild landscape of the National Trust’s oldest nature reserve offers dark skies and a wealth of nocturnal wildlife to listen out for.

 Download the guide for Wicken Fen

  • Mam Tor in Derbyshire – Escape the bright city lights of Sheffield and experience the peace and tranquillity of Mam Tor’s dark skies in the Peak District.

Download the guide for Mam Tor

  • Friar’s Crag in Cumbria – Surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of the Lake District, Friar’s Crag in Keswick juts out into the spectacular lake of Derwentwater; a restful place to contemplate the world above us.

 Download the guide for Friar’s Crag

 

More information about all of these sites is available by visiting: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/darkskies and enjoy stargazing and meteorwatch at these fabulous locations.

Sark: The World’s First Dark Sky Island

Originally posted on Dark Sky Diaries by Steve Owens (@darkskyman on Twitter)

The Channel Island of Sark has been recognised for the quality of its night sky by the International Dark-sky Association (IDA), who have designated it the world’s first dark sky island, the latest in a select group of dark sky places around the world.

Sark has no public street lighting, there are no paved roads and cars, so it does not suffer from the effects light pollution in the same way as towns and cities do. This means that the night sky is very dark, with the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon, meteors streaking overhead, and thousand of stars on display.

Caption: “Stargazers on Sark enjoy the wonder of the Milky Way”. Image Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor

The announcement was hailed as a great success by astronomers. Prof Roger Davies, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “This is a great achievement for Sark. People around the world are become increasingly fascinated by astronomy as we discover more about our universe, and the creation of the world’s first dark sky island in the British Isles can only help to increase that appetite. I hope this leads to many more people experiencing the wonders of a truly dark sky”.

The award follows a long process of community consultation, which included the assessment of the sky darkness and an audit of all the external lights on Sark. A comprehensive lighting management plan was created by lighting Jim Patterson of the Institute of Lighting Engineers, and many local residents and businesses have altered their lighting to make them more dark sky friendly, ensuring that as little light as possible spills upwards where it can drown out the starlight.

Caption: “The Milky Way above the Seigneur’s Mill on Sark”. Image Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor

The government of Sark, the Chief Pleas, were supportive from the start. Conseilleur Paul Williams, chair of the Agriculture Committee, which oversees environmental matters, said: “Sark becoming the world’s first dark sky island is a tremendous feather in our environmental cap, which can only enhance our appeal. Sark is a wonderful island and this recognition will bring our uniqueness and beauty to a wider audience.”

This designation means that Sark joins the select group of international sites chosen for their dark skies, including Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park, which became Europe’s first International Dark Sky Park in November 2009.

Steve Owens, the dark sky development officer who led Sark’s application to the IDA, recognises the benefits that this might have for the community on Sark: “This is an ideal opportunity to bring stargazers to the island throughout the year, and I think that Sark is about to see a boom in astro-tourism, especially in the winter months. We’ve seen a surge of public interest in astronomy in recent years, with the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and more recently with the success of BBC Stargazing Live, and it’s great that places like Sark and Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park are allowing people from towns and cities to come and experience a dark sky”.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Sark Tourism: http://sark.info/

International Dark-sky association: http://www.darksky.org/

Campaign for Dark Skies: http://www.britastro.org/dark-skies/

Star Counting

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), in conjunction with the British Astronomical Association‘s Campaign for Dark Skies, has recently announced their 2011 Star Count Project.

Star Count Week 2011 (from CPRE website)

Star Count Week (Monday 31 January – Sunday 06 February 2011) aims to get you outside and looking up, specifically to assess how dark – or light – your sky is.

The technique is simple. 1. Find Orion. 2. Count all the stars you can see within the main rectangle formed by Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel and Saiph, the four stars that make up Orion’s shoulders and feet. (Don’t count the three bright belt stars). 3. Tell the CPRE.

That’s it. By counting how many you can see, astronomers can calculate your sky’s limiting magnitude, or the brightness of the faintest stars you can see. It’s a very simple – and rewarding – project to take part in.

There are other annual star count programmes, such as GLOBE at Night (March 22 – April 4 2011) which I blogged about during their 2010 event. You can also get more involved and conduct a detailed dark sky survey, or take part in local activities such as the Peak District National Park’s Orion in the Peak project