Dark Sky Discovery, a pioneering new national and regional partnership of astronomy and environmental organizations, has just unveiled a series of Dark Sky Discovery Sites throughout the UK. Led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) the partnership aims to pinpoint the great range of local spots that people can use for stargazing.
Two local Skye groups, Visit Waternish and Destination Skye and Lochalsh, working with STFC project leader Dan Hillier and Forestry Commission Scotland, submitted nine applications for official Dark Sky status on Skye. These include Trumpan, Knockbreck and the Stein Jetty in Waternish; Kinloch Forest, Kylerhea and Camas na Sgianadin in the Broadford area, and three sites at Clan Donald Land Trust. All nine sites were granted Dark Sky Discovery Site status on 18th October.
Dr Simon Hodgkin of the Astronomical Survey Unit, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, and a regular visitor to Waternish said, “Skye is one of the darkest places in the whole of Europe, and Waternish one of the darkest places on Skye, without a single street lamp on the whole peninsula. Standing outside the Stein Inn, the nearest street lamp is in Dunvegan, some six miles distant and masked by cliffs. In fact the nearest street lights that can be seen from Waternish on a clear night are in Lochmaddy, over 22 miles away across the Minch on the Outer Hebrides.”
With Skye having the darkest possible night skies for the UK, by promoting these safe and accessible areas local residents will be able to enjoy stimulating stargazing sessions and add another dimension to their visitors’ experience.
From his base at STFC’s Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, Dan Hillier says “In every community there is somewhere that is the best place to see the stars. This project will find ways of helping people from a whole range of different backgrounds to discover the universe that is just beyond their doorstep”
Clive Hartwell, of Skyeskyns, Visit Waternish and DSL, commented: “This is an exciting new initiative, for both residents and visitors alike, which will raise awareness and understanding of another dimension to the unique beauty of this area. It will bring a twinkle to the eyes of all those working to enhance the visitors’ experience and highlights another impelling reason to come here during the darker months. Above all, it creates opportunities for people from all backgrounds to have greater access to and improved links with the wonders of a natural world which so many of us can take for granted.”
The project is being mounted in partnership with the hugely popular BBC ‘Stargazing Live’ which will be broadcasting its second series on 16 - 18th January, 2012.
For more information about the Dark Sky Discovery project visit www.darkskydiscovery.org.uk.
Anyone seeking further information about Dark Skies on Skye should visit www.visit-waternish.co.uk/wild-waternish