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Sark becomes world's first dark sky island

Last Updated on Friday, 28 January 2011 15:03
Published on Monday, 31 January 2011 00:01

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.

 

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Stargazers on Sark enjoy the wonder of the Milky Way. Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor
Sark has no public street lighting, there are no paved roads and cars, so it does not suffer from the effects of 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 countless stars on display.

 

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 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 starlight.

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.

 

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The Milky Way above the Seigneur's Mill on Sark. Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor
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/

IMAGES

Image 1: “Stargazers on Sark enjoy the wonder of the Milky Way”. Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor.
Image 2: “The Milky Way above the Seigneur's Mill on Sark”. Credit: Martin Morgan-Taylor.

CONTACTS

Steve Owens
Dark Skies Development Officer
Tel: +44 (0)7879 058 120
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Karen Adams or Penny Prevel
Sark Tourist Office
Tel: +44 (0)1481 832345
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Martin Morgan-Taylor, IDA Board Member:
Tel: +44 (0)7809571085
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Conseilleur Paul Wlliams
Tel: +44 (0)1481 832118
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Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Burlington House
London W1J 0BQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.ras.org.uk