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Dark-Sky Park

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Image: Wigtownshire Astronomical Society

. . .the skies are leaden and the rain is falling in stair-rods. But here, on the edge of the Galloway Forest Park, locals are preparing to celebrate its recognition as a Dark-Sky Park, an award unique in Europe, that will rank this lonely corner of southwest Scotland alongside only two other areas in the world.

Next month, the International Dark-Sky Association - based in Tucson, Arizona - will convene to ratify the report of its inspectors in Britain. Final tests, which begin tonight in the shrouded hills of Glen Trool, are almost certain to confirm a first batch of readings that registered parts of the vast and lonely forest at Bortle 2 on the international darkness scale.

Bortle 2 is as dark as it gets on dry land; only in the middle of the ocean, where light pollution is entirely absent, could you experience the profound blackness of Bortle 1.

. . .On the clearest night in London you might be able to pick out only 200 stars. In Galloway Forest Park about 7,000 fill the sky. Weather permitting.

The Times story has a wonderful report on the local astronomers who meet in Galloway Forest Park.

Today the world’s only dark-sky parks are Natural Bridges, Utah, and Cherry Springs State Park, in Susquehannock State Forest, Pennsylvania.

One night I saw stars on the Oregon coast. It's rare to see many stars there, but the place where we were was dark. When we doused the light and stepped out on the deck, the dome of night that had risen above the ocean was so full of stars it appeared to be raining constellations. On another night, a cold winter's night in the Far North, amid ice and snow, I tipped back my head and saw depths of dark night sky drifting and glittering with thousands upon thousands of stars and sparkling, astonishingly, with colours. I felt lifted out of myself. I felt I was standing at the bow of a ship moving slowly into the universe.

Two hundred and fifty years ago, if you lived in the country in Britain or anywhere in America, you must have seen star-filled nights whenever the skies were clear. . .

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