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UK now boasts more than 100 spectacular stargazing sites

Lundy Island
Lundy Island - shooting stars at the old lighthouse.
(Credit: Joshua Dya)

10 December 2014 – New spectacular stargazing sites perfect for astronomy have been identified across the UK, including some of the islands just off the coast of Britain.

During the extra hours of darkness this winter, thousands of people across the UK will be shunning a cosy evening at home to experience skies perfect for astronomy, due to the low levels of light pollution which these sites offer.

Sixteen new Dark Sky Discovery sites – great places for observing the sky on a clear night – have been added to the UK list this autumn, bringing the total to 108 superb stargazing locations.

Each Dark Sky Discovery Site has been nominated by a local group or organisation and approved by the Dark Sky Discovery programme as being accessible, with good sightlines and relatively low light pollution, giving people the best possible conditions to just turn up and see the stars on a clear night.

Leader of the Dark Sky Discovery initiative at the STFC’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, Dan Hillier, said,” We are very excited that we have now passed the 100 sites milestone. 40 of these sites are on islands off the coast of mainland Britain – where local people can value the great views of the night sky that are afforded by the surrounding seas.”

The best stargazing sites are mainly in rural areas, where light pollution is far lower than in heavily populated cities. But even in London with its bright lights a new stargazing site has been identified. Grove Park in Lewisham is a nature reserve where Londoners can get some great views of the night sky. It opens up the world of astronomy to a population of more than 275,000 in that borough alone.

“In the city you can only see the brightest stars in the sky,” said Dan Hillier. “But in these dark, rural locations you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye”

Lundy Island
Lundy Island - The Time Keeper’s Hut
(Credit: Joshua Day)

Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, 10 miles off the North Devon coast, has just four street lights so at night much of the island is immersed in complete darkness.

Rebecca MacDonald, the Landmark Trust warden on the island says, “The new Dark Sky Discovery Site is the island’s airstrip, a short walk from the village and stargazers are able to experience spectacular views of the Milky Way. We might be a short trip from the mainland but we feel very connected to the Universe!”

Meanwhile, heading inland, the Shropshire Hills, Sutherland and the North Pennines all have new sites, as do parts of Wales and Northern Ireland.

The winter constellation Orion is a great sight for first-time naked-eye observers to look out for in the coming months. It currently rises in the south east at around midnight but will be seen earlier and earlier in the evening as we head further into December.

In addition, December sees the Geminids meteor shower in the night sky between the 8th and 17th. The peak of the shower will be December 14th when up to 100 meteors an hour could be seen.

Dark Sky Discovery is network of astronomy and open space organisations that aims to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to get out and stargaze. Many of these organisations run events where the public has the opportunity to meet astronomers and find out about the latest astronomical discoveries. The Dark Sky Discovery map highlights Dark Sky Discovery Sites and other venues that will be running events through the winter.

For more details about Dark Sky Discovery Sites in your area see the website.

More information:

Marion O’Sullivan
STFC Press Office
Tel: 01235 445627
Mob: 07824 888990

Dan Hillier
Head of Public Engagement with National Laboratories,
Science and Technology Facilities Council
Royal Observatory, Edinburgh.
Tel: 07821 800356 or 0131 668 8406.

Notes for editors

Images available

Lundy Island - shooting stars at the old lighthouse (credit: Joshua Day)

Lundy Island - The Time Keeper’s Hut (credit: Joshua Day)

The new Dark Sky Discovery Sites

Dark Sky Discovery Sites have one or two darkness ratings:

  • “Orion” sites. At these sites, the seven main stars in the winter constellation Orion are visible to the naked eye. Typically, this means away from, or shielded from, bright lights such as street lights, security lights or approaching car lights.

  • “Milky Way” sites. At these sites the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye. They are much darker sites found only in more rural areas.
Site Location Class Contact name Phone number
Cross Dyke Shropshire Hills Milky Way Richard Hickman 01694 722006
Carding Mill Valley Shropshire Hills Milky Way Richard Hickman 01694 722006
Pole Cottage Shropshire Hills Milky Way Richard Hickman 01694 722006
Shooting Box Shropshire Hills Milky Way Richard Hickman 01694 722006
Lundy landing strip Lundy (Bristol Channel) Milky Way Rebecca MacDonald 01237 431831
Glen Canisp Sutherland Milky Way J C McCarthy 01571 844100
Carrick-a-rede Ballintoy, County Antrim Milky Way Ciara McClements 028 207 62178
Grove Park London Milky Way Stephen Kenny 07910 940802
Allen Banks Northumberland Milky Way Lesley Silvera 01388 528801
Llanerchaeron Llanaeron, Dyfed Milky Way Gwen Morgan 01545 573024
Penbryn Ceredigion, Dyfed Milky Way Gwen Morgan 01545 573024
Bowlees Visitor Centre North Pennines Orion Claire Hutchinson 01388 528801
Knarsdale North Pennines Orion Claire Hutchinson 01388 528801
Ingram Village Hall Northumberland Milky Way Duncan Wise 01434 611521
National Park Centre, Once Brewed Northumberland Milky Way Duncan Wise 01434 611521
Walltown Country Park Car Park Northumberland Milky Way Duncan Wise 01434 611521

For information about all 108 sites, please see the map.

The Dark Sky Discovery network

The national DSD partnership is led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. Its other members are:

  • Royal Astronomical Society

  • Federation of Astronomical Societies

  • Society for Popular Astronomy

  • British Association of Planetaria

  • Institute of Physics

  • Campaign for Dark Skies

  • UK Association for science and Discovery Centre

More general information can be found at the Dark Sky Discovery website.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security. The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar.

STFC operates or hosts world class experimental facilities including in the UK the ISIS pulsed neutron source, the Central Laser Facility, and LOFAR, and is also the majority shareholder in Diamond Light Source Ltd.

It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities by funding membership of international bodies including European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

STFC is one of seven publicly-funded research councils. It is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Follow us on Twitter at @STFC_Matters.

Last updated: 10 December 2014


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